A report on the current provision of childcare in the Dalmore to Garynahine area of Lewis was launched last night (Thursday June 17) at a well-attended Zoom event.
The study reveals a severe lack of choice available to parents in the area and highlights the consequences of this - with parents having to rely on childcare providers in Stornoway, family networks or choosing not to work at all. All of which threaten the long-term economic and social sustainability of the area along with the culture and language.
The project has been funded by the Scottish Government’s Aspiring Communities Fund, which is supported by the European Social Fund. This funding enabled Carloway Community Association (CCA), along with project partners Urras Oighreachd Chàrlabhaigh and Breasclete Community Association, to employ a Social Inclusion Officer, Donald J Macleod who carried out the research.
CCA Chair Mairi Steele said: “Childcare has emerged as a community priority in every consultation that has been carried out in the area over past 10 years. Along with other local organisations, we have struggled to find ways that we can highlight the issue and identify how we can help.
“This project has allowed us to explore local childcare provision in detail and more importantly, consider potential opportunities for community groups to support the expansion of provision in the area.”
The research involved a survey of local parents, followed up with in-depth interviews as well as discussions with local, national and international childcare providers.
Findings show that availability of childcare is a factor in parents deciding where to live and impacts future school choices. Adequate provision is essential for halting the depopulation of the area and preserving Gaelic in the community.
Statutory provision by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is delivered in the Breasclete and Shawbost and provides a very high standard of care. Capacity has significantly increased in recent years but the report identifies the large gaps that exist around this provision. These gaps include a lack of available care for the 0-2 age group and an absence of early morning and late afternoon provision for all age groups.
Donald J Macleod said “Appropriate childcare is vital to the economic and social wellbeing of the area. People must be able to access the childcare that they require, delivered in the language that they choose. It is not sustainable for parents to have to rely on family networks to provide care. There is clearly a role for community groups to work with the Comhairle to help fill the gaps around statutory provision.
“We hope that this work will begin a conversation on this important issue and lead to practical solutions that our communities need.”