Childcare: investing in our future

The 'Welcome' image for North Edinburgh Childcare

Each child will be actively encouraged to become a confident individual, successful learner, effective contributor and responsible citizen. North Edinburgh Childcare

‘Please don’t make childcare an afterthought.’ The heartfelt message from Theresa Allison is clear and simple. Good quality childcare is an investment in the next generation – or to put it another way, in the future of Scotland. ‘It’s much more than babysitting.’

Childcare was a key topic for discussion at the Side by Side Gathering, a community event open to all at the end of last year. Along with housing, environment and social care it had emerged as one of the four top concerns in the community discussions leading up to The Gathering event in December 2016.

These concerns could now become part of a community manifesto for Edinburgh Northern and Leith in this year’s local elections in May 2017. And far beyond. Which makes the work of North Edinburgh Childcare (NEC) a particularly valuable story on the Wall of Success

Theresa May standing to deliver her speech at Side by Side in December
Theresa Allison at the Side by Side Gathering

As managing director of NEC, Theresa Allison was one of the panel of experts leading discussion at the Side by Side Gathering event in December. Her direct and quietly passionate speech – echoed in the Wall of Success story posted here – highlights the opportunities and challenges involved in developing a well-integrated childcare service. Not least at a time of continuing cuts to essential funding. Theresa told The Gathering: ‘We have taken an overall cut of 20% in the last two years.’

Planning for excellence

If you are creating housing for families, childcare options should be a top priority. It should be in planning legislation guidance. Theresa Allison

Now 20 years old,  North Edinburgh Childcare was founded by campaigning women in response to a need for local affordable and flexible childcare. Since opening in the spring of 1997, the community enterprise has demonstrated the rewards of investment in high quality care and training, benefiting not just children but their families and surrounding communities.

Widely respected by politicians and policy makers, the centre, based in Ferry Road Avenue, was where Nicola Sturgeon announced the Scottish Government’s investment in early learning trials last year. The NEC commitment to excellence was endorsed by a recent Care Inspectorate report noting ‘high quality of learning environment that allows children to be creative in their play.’

“I am a very happy Mum, knowing my child is in safe hands” Care Inspectorate report

Flexibility for differing needs

The Scottish Government pledges to increase provision of free early learning and childcare provision to 1140 hours per year by 2020. (Free care is available for 3-4 year old children and for 2 year olds whose parents/carers are eligible for free care.)

Increased provision was welcomed at The Gathering. But during the childcare workshop, which was attended by our local MSP Ben MacPherson, parents and grandparents also emphasised the importance of ensuring flexible services meet differing needs.  Low paid families also need support after their child starts school so that they can continue to work.

As their Wall of Success story makes clear, NEC provides for such out of school care – it runs seven Out of School Clubs – as well as integrating quality childcare with personal development of parents and staff.

Regeneration is an opportunity for local community groups to engage with the private and public sectors to work together for the future

It’s worth noting that there was enthusiastic support for community collaboration at all discussion events leading up to The Gathering. [See HERE and HERE]

North Edinburgh Childcare: 3 recent achievements

1: Expansion of our Nursery services, offering affordable childcare for children 4 months to 5 years supporting parents/carers to access work and or training.

2: Offering affordable Out of School Care for children 5 to 12 years of age to support parents into work and or training. In total supporting over 514 children from 4 months to 12 years.

3: As a registered SQA approved training centre by the end of March 2016 we had supported 462 people to attain a recognised qualification in childcare to date. In 2016 alone 25 unemployed people were supported to progress into work via our Childcare Academy programme bringing the total number of people supported into a job through the programme to 278.

Priorities for future development

1: We have identified a need in the community for additional affordable childcare to allow parents to work, train or attend a programme of further education. In order for us to respond to this demand we need to engage with the public, private and third sector partners to increase our physical capacity.

2: Regeneration in the area continues to be focus for the Council.  This is an opportunity for local community groups to engage with the private and public sectors to work together to put in place the infrastructure that will best support people living in the community for the future.

3: Supporting young people living in the community to create positive destinations continues to be a challenge. For our sector in childcare we know we are successful with the young people when we get a chance to engage with them. However getting the opportunity to do so is difficult. We need better relationships with the High Schools that would allow us to target underrepresented young people in our sector.

For Side by Side updates see  Side by Side Edinburgh Northern and Leith on Facebook 

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