Childcare boost for South Lochs

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A pilot project to expand childcare provision, increase employment and secure growth in a South Lochs community has been given the green light.

Pairc Playgroup announced the £107,166 pilot project, working in partnership with Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Muaitheabhal Community Wind Farm Trust (MCWFT) this week.

The Playgroup is currently advertising three new jobs as it prepares to offer all-day provision for children aged two to 12 years old, with the introduction of Breakfast and Afternoon Clubs covering care hours from 8am to 6pm daily.

“We are delighted we have been successful with our funding,” said Helen Sandison, Pairc Playgroup Committee.

“This is the first time in the Western Isles that HIE have supported a childcare project like this, and they are looking to see if a rural area like ours can sustain such a venture, see if it has an effect on the population by attracting new families to the area, and also see if it helps women to return to the job market.”

A community run social enterprise established in 2001, Pairc Playgroup offered limited childcare hours, leaving many residents with no nursery option within the local community.

“Sourcing adequate childcare is a major problem for many families in the area, with many having to look to Stornoway for provision as there is nothing available locally,” said Helen. “This has an effect on our local primary school, with families then sourcing primary school education elsewhere.

“There is just a desperate need for full-time provision locally, and we’re delighted that soon we will be able to do that.

“With work being undertaken by MCWFT to look at more housing in the area, we hope childcare will no longer be a barrier to attracting more families to come and live in South Lochs.”

Jane MacIntosh, Head of Strengthening Communities, HIE, said: “HIE is particularly pleased to be able to support a pilot project to extend childcare provision in a rural community. While we do not generally provide long term support for childcare, we do support community development initiatives and social enterprises.”

A Muaitheabhal Community Wind Farm Trust spokesperson added: “MCWFT are proud to be supporting this project.

“This is a fine example of the innovative and proactive projects the Trust aims to support, tackling the main issues in our community of retaining our population, encouraging families to live here, as well as supporting local job opportunities.”

Minister for Childcare and Early Years, Mark McDonald said:“I am delighted that Pairc Playgroup has been successful in securing funding for this pilot project.

“It is fantastic to see a rural community taking such an innovative and flexible approach to delivering early learning and childcare by integrating the funded 600 hours with extended hours, to really meet the needs of families living in the area.

“This approach will enable more children to benefit from early learning, will support more parents to work, train and study and give the local economy a real boost.”

Following the pilot project, Pairc Playgroup will compile a report to be made available to others, particularly those seeking to set up similar facilities.