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Council / More childcare grant money on offer

Lerwick Town Hall. Photo: Shetland NewsLerwick Town Hall. Photo: Shetland News

THE AMOUNT of money local childcare providers in the voluntary and private sector can receive in grants from the council will increase amid an expansion of funded early learning.

Members of Shetland Islands Council’s policy and resources committee approved increasing the maximum grant from £2,000 to £2,500 when they met on Monday.

The childcare fund was introduced in 2012 to support local childcare providers who operate within limited budgets.

Quality improvement officer for early learning and childcare Samantha Flaws, however, told the committee that the fund had been under-utilised, with often only one application coming in a year.

There are hopes, however, that more people will apply for funding as the expansion of early learning and childcare in Scotland continues, with the government paying for funded hours to nearly double to 1,140 hours a year by August 2020.

The grant scheme could be used to pay for items like furniture, equipment, car safety seats and non-statuary training.

North Mainland member Alastair Cooper asked what the total budget for the scheme was, with Flaws answering £6,000 – but this will be able to be increased if the demand is there.

Councillors heard last week that the roll-out of expanded funded childcare in Shetland is on track, with around one third of local providers now delivering the 1,140 hours.

South mainland councillor George Smith, meanwhile, spoke out in praise of council staff following the announcement that the Central Private Nursery in Sandwick is due to close in June.

Officials are looking into whether the council-run Sandwick Junior High School nursery can take in children who attend the private nursery, which offers longer childcare hours and is open to younger children.

Smith said it was a “great example” of staff being flexible.