Ask families in Edinburgh what childcare service they value most and I guarantee that one of the top responses will be after school clubs. They are absolutely essential for many parents and carers as they play an increasingly pivotal role in delivering flexible wrap-around childcare that is needed in the city.
It’s clear we have a vibrant out-of-school care sector but I do know that many after-school clubs struggle with a variety of issues. This could be with meeting demand, additional regulations that are in place, staff training or accommodation.
That’s why I was delighted the City of Edinburgh Council and the Lothian Association of Youth Clubs (LAYC) announced the launch of our After School Club Co-operative Charter last week.
The driver for the charter was a number of conversations with after school clubs, parents and workers who were involved in the sector who felt there was a need for greater support.
The charter provides an ideal opportunity for the council to work with these groups to take forward and improve on the valuable work they do. I’m convinced that by joining forces with LAYC a range of support services and advice to the out-of-school care sector will be available.
This will ensure these community-based/parent-led organisations work closer together, share best practice and help create a strong support network for the clubs.
One of the key Capital Coalition objectives is to create a co-operative capital and to work in partnership with local people. This means communities are much more involved in planning, managing and delivering services.
We are committed to this approach as it gives local people a greater sense of choice and control over the public services they use in areas such as energy, housing and social care cooperatives.
So after-school clubs and the out-of-school care sector seemed like a great opportunity to do something a bit different.
The charter is another step forward in our desire to see flexible, affordable childcare provided for all parents in every part of the city and a key part of our wider approach to improving children’s services.
The lack of affordable childcare is a huge challenge, but one this council is committed to tackling. We are currently developing an affordable childcare strategy so access to low cost childcare should be widely available.
We will continue to do everything in our power to ensure parents can afford the childcare they deserve for their children. There has been some fantastic work taken forward on early years provision in Edinburgh with a real commitment across local and central government to provide greater flexibility for parents.
However, more can be done by developing increased breakfast club provision and exploring greater use of schools, nurseries and other council owned buildings.
Add in the After Club Charter and we are heading in the right direction for providing the kind of flexible, quality child care provision that families in Edinburgh need.
Paul Godzik is education convener at Edinburgh City Council