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Concerns raised over Aberdeenshire Council's decision to cut out-of-school care

By Kyle Ritchie

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Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin has written to the local authority after it announced plans to close provided out-of-school care by July this year.

It comes after a number of parents were in contact with concerns about the decision which is expected to impact hundreds of families.

In a letter to Aberdeenshire Council’s chief executive Jim Savege, Ms Martin called for further information on what assistance is going to be provided in light of the decision.

Aberdeenshire Council is to close provided out-of-school care by July this year.
Aberdeenshire Council is to close provided out-of-school care by July this year.

Ms Martin said: “As you will doubtless appreciate, my constituents are deeply concerned by the withdrawal of what is, for many families, a vital, lifeline service.

“At a time when inflation has eaten into household budgets, many families have no option but for both parents to work – and ending all out of school care provision in the current climate couldn’t come at a worse possible time.

“I appreciate that the administration are set on pressing ahead with this policy; my purpose in writing however, is to ascertain whether any efforts were made to retain the service on a sustainable basis, and whether an integrated impact assessment was carried out to indicate the effect on the families who rely so heavily on these services.”

The decision will impact 15 of Aberdeenshire’s 146 primary schools with the local authority blaming a decrease in demand as well as staffing and budget pressures.

The service is used by a total of 350 children.

Ms Martin said: “The decision by the Tory-led administration to remove out-of-hours childcare is a complete abdication of responsibility to working parents.

“This decision has been made with no consultation and there are no obvious alternatives being offered to families.

“It means many parents will face difficult decisions around juggling childcare and work and many parents will be sadly faced with no alternative to fill the gap.”

Meanwhile, commenting on the move by Conservative MP Andrew Bowie to write to Aberdeenshire Council questioning the Conservative-led authority on its unpopular decision to stop all of its out-of-school care provision from July, Gordon MP Richard Thomson has said it is indicative of a lack of communication and joined-up thinking in the ruling Conservative Group.

The proposals were considered by Aberdeenshire Council’s education and children’s services Committee recently where SNP councillors proposed an amendment to reject the withdrawal of the service but were voted down by 11 votes to 6.

Mr Thomson said: “It seems incredible that the response of an Aberdeenshire Conservative MP to a decision taken by the Conservative-led administration in the council is to write questioning the director of education.

“Council officials provide recommendations but it is ultimately councillors who make the decisions, and the decision to withdraw out-of-school care provision is an unpopular one which will impact local families and – in some cases – their ability to maintain their employment.

“It would have been far better for Conservative councillors to speak to their Conservative MPs and get them to lobby Westminster for a fairer funding deal for the Scottish Government in order that local services can be protected from these cuts.

"And while doing so, it would also have been helpful for the council administration to explore alternatives and assist in setting those up before taking such a draconian decision which displays such a lack of communication and joined-up thinking.”

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