Plan for co-ops network to revolutionise city’s childcare

Shahzad Abdullah with his two children. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Shahzad Abdullah with his two children. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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EDUCATION chiefs have unveiled a drive to improve the affordability of childcare by creating a network of “co-operative” providers across the 
Capital.

They will press ahead with plans to help groups achieve co-operative status and access expert support in areas such as training, legal advice and finance.

The aim is to create a network extending “across the city”, which would include play groups and after-school clubs.

Youth leaders welcomed the plan and said it would keep a lid on fees by minimising running costs and protecting income.

The move towards co-operative childcare comes as several Edinburgh-based groups – particularly those that are parent or community-led – struggle to stay afloat amid demands for extra qualifications and training, rising expenditure and high staff turnover.

The Capital has the highest childcare costs in Europe, with families shelling out up to £12,000 a year.

Ian Boardman, director of the Lothian Association of Youth Clubs, which will act as the network’s “umbrella organisation”, welcomed the plan and said: “There are a number of groups that have higher turnover of staff and are under the cosh in terms of stricter regulation, or are struggling to balance their expenditure.”

Five childcare groups in the Capital have already expressed an interest in joining the arrangement.

“Some groups are having to ensure that they are self-sufficient or self-sustaining,” said Mr Boardman.

“So they’re having to make sure that income brought in through fees is enough to cover costs, which may mean they consider raising fees.

“This new co-operative arrangement is about minimising their cost base in some ways.”

The plan has also been 
welcomed by parents and childcare providers.

Shahzad Abdullah, 39, a father of four from Restalrig, whose two youngest children benefit from services provided by the Edinburgh-based Nari Kallyan Shango (NKS) group, said: “The council are right to maintain these organisations and assist them.

“If organisations like NKS weren’t there, life would be very difficult for us.”

Thomas Lynch, right, chairman of childcare provider Dads Rock, said: “You only need to look at waiting lists for crèches and other groups to know that parents need more childcare provision, therefore this development is greatly welcomed.”

Education bosses warned there would be no “magic bullet” on the issue of affordable childcare.

Councillor Paul Godzik, children and families leader, said: “We as a council think we can do more to support childcare groups, and particularly parent-led organisations, and make them more sustainable.”