Letters to the Editor

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Community

Free childcare

I write to reassure parents who may be concerned by last week’s misleading article in the Midlothian Advertiser about free childcare for disadvantaged two-year-olds. I had thought that, in response to the journalist’s enquiry, I’d made Midlothian’s position perfectly clear. MSP Cameron Buchanan’s suggestion the council is struggling to deliver on this flagship policy is completely untrue. Indeed, as a council, we are confident no eligible two-year-old in Midlothian is, or will, miss out on accessing childcare places. It was never expected our local authority centres would be able to accommodate an estimated extra 157 places this year, which is why we have bought, in the first instance, a considerable number of places with our partner agency, Midlothian Sure Start. The rest of the required places over the next 12 months will be secured from partnership nurseries and childminders. Extra staff members have already been employed to ensure this flagship policy is implemented effectively and we are also exploring the option of extending our local authority centres to accommodate two-year-olds next year.

Currently, there are no children waiting for a place and, as is the case with all local authorities, we don’t have a list of potentially eligible two-year-olds. The system works on a self-referral basis and, therefore, unless a child is looked after, we are relying on families to come forward and request a place. As schools and nurseries return this week, we are expecting to receive many applications in the coming weeks and months. Making sure children get the best start in life is one of the council’s three priority areas and we look forward to welcoming the first two-year-olds into nurseries in the near future. I would encourage parents, who are receiving the identified benefits and have a two-year-old child, to please contact either Midlothian Pupil Placement Service on 0131 271 3733 or the Early Years Team on 0131 271 3705 where they will be provided with advice on how to access the 600 hours of early learning and childcare.

Councillor Bob Constable

Cabinet member for education

Editor’s note: I refute that our report was “misleading”. As we explained, the Scottish government announced in January that all two-year-olds from a workless home would be able to access up to 600 hours of childcare provision from August 1. But that date was recently extended until October 31. In his response to our enquiry, Councillor Constable admitted: “While it is the case that our centres don’t have capacity, we are in the first instance, buying 50 appropriate places...”

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