'Without Mull's two childminders, we would have to leave the island'

A rural recruitment drive has soothed the fears of parents worried about childcare on the Isle of Mull.

The recruitment of two childminders has been “life changing” for parents on the Isle of Mull who feared they would have to leave the island.

Until recently, there wasn’t a single childminder on Mull. But there’s now two thanks to a rural recruitment drive.

Karen Fraser is working in Tobermory, while Helen MacInnes also has a childminding business on the island.

They are able to offer flexible hours to parents living on Mull.

‘We would have to sell our house and leave the island’

One of those who utilises their service is parent Robert Lee. He told STV News: “Genuinely, I think if it wasn’t for a childminder, I think one of us would have to quit our job.

“We don’t have family here, we would have to sell our house and leave the island.”

Robert Lee, parent on Mull.STV News

The set-up is also beneficial for childminder Karen, who says she enjoys working on Mull. “It’s just such a lovely environment to be in,” she said.

“It’s good for my family to have the little ones come in every day, it gives then the chance to mix before they get to ELC and a busier environment.”

Helen added: “The benefits are being your own boss and having lovely relationships with the children, I think making a difference in their lives and hopefully they remember us forever.”

Recruiting just two childminders has been transformative for parents, allowing them to continue working and crucially to continue living on Mull.

But it only really scratches the surface of the childminding shortage in Scotland.

STV News

In the last decade, the number of childminders has dropped by almost 40%, according to the Scottish Social Services Council.

The problem is partly due to the complexities that childminders are facing in delivering the Scottish Government’s funded hours of childcare.

First Minister Humza Yousaf has pledged to make childcare a priority, but with the workforce in rapid decline, campaigners say much more urgent action is needed.

Graeme McAlister, CEO of the Scottish Childminding Association, said: “A lot of childminders find it quite difficult to compete with the scale of local authority expansion, the national recruitment drive into nurseries, so quite a lot of work still needs to be done on working with local authorities to give childminders more opportunities to deliver funded ELC (early learning and childcare).”

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Yousaf wants to hire 1,000 more childminders by 2026 and council body COSLA say it values the childminding workforce and is piloting new approaches to recruitment.

But charities say many more are needed to reverse the declining workforce, and help to keep communities afloat.

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