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Highland Childcare Company Introduces New Service To Fill Gaps In Provision

30th November 2004

Parents of young children in the Highlands, who currently have difficulty finding childcare provision to meet their needs, are being offered a more flexible service by Direct Childcare.

The Inverness-based company, which currently serves much of the Highland area, is in the process of recruiting and training sitters who will take care of children outside of normal working hours within the child's home.

The sitter service is the latest from Direct Childcare, which was originally set up to provide a bank of relief childcare staff to support pre-school groups, nurseries and out-of-school clubs during staff absences or shortages.

The company has received 25,000 assistance from Inverness and Nairn Enterprise (INE) and 7,500 from Caithness and Sutherland Enterprise (CASE) as part of a 435,000 three-year funding package. This will enable it to expand its services to help improve childcare provision in the Highlands and help parents back into work or training.

In June, Direct Childcare introduced three mobile crche facilities that travel all over the area providing quality childcare for conferences, parent support groups or training events, and in January the sitter service aims to be operational.

Development manager Fiona Ednie said: "This new sitter service is aimed at helping parents who work outside of normal office hours or who want to attend training courses after work.

"It will involve trained staff going into the children's own homes to provide childcare. We have seen how successful this type of service has been in Dundee and we know there is a huge market for it in this area. We are currently in the process of recruiting sitters and expect to be operational in the New Year.

Direct Childcare was set up in May 2004 and currently offers flexible and quality childcare in the Inverness and Nairn, Ross and Cromarty, Caithness and Sutherland and Skye and Lochalsh areas.

Marie Mackintosh, head of development at INE, said she was delighted to see the company expanding its services and filling some of the current gaps in childcare provision.

She said: "Direct Childcare's current services already provide valuable local economic and community benefits, in terms of increasing employment within the childcare sector, supporting existing childcare organisations with relief workers and providing a service to training providers and conference organisers.

"The new sitter service will add to this by providing parents who are shift-workers, or who need to arrange childcare in their own home, access to a reliable service, safe in the knowledge that the staff are trained and registered. A number of local healthcare and manufacturing employers have backed the need for these out-of-normal-hours services."

Anna MacConnell, Community Economic Development manager at CASE, said: "Given the major geographic difficulties associated with childcare provision in Caithness and Sutherland, particularly in North West Sutherland, we see this initiative as an important way of delivering vital services in rural areas."

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