Moray MSP visits local Nursery to understand how flexible childcare can support business and economic growth

Richard Lochhead, MSP for Moray, is visiting Strathisla Children’s Centre in Keith to understand how flexible early learning childcare is helping parents to get back to work.

Strathisla Children’s centre is a custom-built early learning and childcare setting for 65 children based in the grounds of Keith Grammar School in Moray.

The setting is just one of the 21 services run by charity Flexible Childcare Services Scotland and, thanks to a partnership with Moray Council, offers fully-funded, flexible early learning and childcare to eligible 2s and all 3-5 year olds in Keith and the surrounding areas.

Families using the nursery are able to book childcare by the hour, only paying for the time they book. They aren’t subject to any up-front costs, deposits or holiday retainers and bookings can be changed on a weekly basis.

Manager Eleanor Smith explains:

“Strathisla Children’s Centre offers both funded and private hours on a flexible model which makes us unique, and allows us to support families who have various shift patterns or require changes in hours and days. We are a family orientated setting, where as a team our role is to support the families as much as the care and learning with offer the children. The impact of offering a flexible model for parents alleviates both financial worries and concerns for their changing early learning and childcare needs.”

The model has been specifically developed to help parents and carers to return to work, find new educational or training opportunities and to break the cycle of poverty that affects over 25% of children in Scotland.

Chief Executive of the charity, Susan McGhee, added:

“Our flexible childcare model was created to help parents find and accept offers of employment that would otherwise be unavailable to them. Thanks to our model 80% of the parents we support are in part time or full time employment. Our model works, not only for parents but also for employers who need commitment from their staff.”

Parents using the service have been able to start new jobs or increase their working hours and many (82%) have reduced their household expenditure while increasing their income.

According to one parent:

“The flexible model really helped when returning to work after maternity leave as I was still negotiating a work pattern with my employer, so it was fantastic to have this level of childcare support. This has extended to short notice situations where the setting have fully supported and accommodated my requests on numerous occasions. It makes an enormous difference to our work/home life balance and planning, especially as my partner works away regularly.”

Another said:

“The flexible service means I have been able to take more hours at work and start a distant learning course. I have also extended my son’s hours at the last minute when I have needed to and this has never been an issue with the nursery. They always accommodate where they can.”

At the visit Mr Lochhead said:

“The Scottish Government’s investment in 1140 hours of fully-funded childcare provision has been a huge help to families in Moray, as well as boosting the economy by allowing more parents to return to work after having children.

“I was delighted to visit Strathisla Children’s Centre to meet their excellent team and some of the children they care for, and to learn more about the flexible service they offer local families.

“There’s no doubt that their flexible approach allows families to feel supported in returning to the workplace, which will certainly benefit parents, local employers, and the Moray economy.”