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Caithness News Bulletins July 2004

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Small Grants To Be Available To Become A Child Minder
A recent survey of childcare in Caithness was declared a success by Niall Smith, chairman of the Caithness Childcare and Family Resource Partnership, who commissioned the work.

He said: “This has been a very useful exercise for the Partnership. Before, the survey, we had a lot of anecdotal evidence about what types of childcare people used and why.  Now we have some solid statistics on which to base our planning. The information will prove valuable in supporting grant applications for new provision in Caithness.”

The survey was carried out in March and April this year in four areas of the County. A questionnaire asked families: what childcare they were currently using; what childcare they would use if it were available; and what factors they though important in choosing childcare?

Forms were sent to parents of children aged fourteen or under in Lybster, South Wick, Canisbay and Halkirk. One quarter (a high response rate) of questionnaires were returned, representing 150 families and 275 children. The statistician on the project, Russell Smith, would like to thank all the schools who helped out and the Health Authorities for their co-operation.

A number of key conclusions were made from the survey.

Friends and family are used extensively for childcare: this is mostly unpaid and appears to be used to either fill the gap between children finishing school and parents finishing work or because there are no other alternatives.

The main unfulfilled demand is for after school and holiday clubs for older children (again to cover times when parents are at work) and for childminders for younger children.

Rural areas have lower levels of provision and experience difficulties with distance from existing facilities.

The most important factors in childcare were “affordable” and “near home”, “trained staff”, “flexible hours” and “personal recommendation” were also important to more than half of the families

Sixteen percent of families reported that lack of childcare was stopping them getting a job (though there may be other factors as well); and there are a sizeable number of people who would like to work in childcare.

Lindsay Gunn, the Highland Council’s Childcare and Family Resource Officer, who works for the Partnership, said that her role involved getting projects up and running.

“This information means that we have a much better idea of where to target new facilities and what sort of childcare people need. Already we are using the information to develop a new strategy for the Partnership, with funding available for after school care, holiday clubs, childminders, playgroups and training.”

Fore more information about the small grants available from the Childcare and Resource Partnership or about how to become a childminder, contact Lindsay Gunn at The Highland Council, Social Work Service in Wick on tel: 01955 605040.