Buchan playgroup bears brunt of vital funding cuts

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A BUCHAN playgroup has hit out at Aberdeenshire Council after it emerged the local authority de-commissioned places for the second year running without consulting parents or staff.

Mintlaw Playgroup, part of Mintlaw Under 5’s, has been fighting to survive since their commissioned places - which allows funding to be provided for every child attending playgroup after their third birthday - were removed last year.

It is the latest blow to the group who vowed to survive despite the first set of cutbacks.

However, this year staff at the group only discovered they were not being considered for commissioned places when nursery application packs were issued - and did not include them as an option for parents applying for their child to attend nursery.

They have now launched a petition around the village which they plan to send to the council to highlight how many parents would have preferred to have Mintlaw Playgroup has an option for their children.

Chairperson of Mintlaw Under 5s, Shona Mayhew, told the Buchanie it was “unfair” that they weren’t even considered for commissioned places this year, and were not even informed of the decision made.

“It was on January 17 that we found out we had been de-commissioned, but the council never actual got in touch to tell us that, we only realised when we never got admission packs.

“We feel it’s unfair that we have not even been considered as an option for parents. Since finding out, we have started up a petition to make people aware that they are not being told their full choice. They have obviously taken into account all children in the village and decided there are enough nursery places for the number of children. But to not let us know, and to not have even been considered as an option on the form, is completely unfair.”

The playgroup hasrun extra activites with a fee since being told last year that their commissioned places were being removed, such as a Messy Twos group, wraparound care and a ‘Muddles’ group - and this has helped subsidise their extra running costs.

Shona added: “Our Messy Twos group is really popular, we charge £4 per session and it seems to have taken off. Wraparound care hasn’t been as popular as we had hoped, so we will have to think of new ways to raise funds. We are planning a few fundraisers in the coming months, such as a coffee morning, a quiz night and a bingo night, and anything else we can think of really to help keep us going.

“Playgroup is important for children as nursery can often be too regimented for the younger ones and it offers a completely different atmosphere, although we still follow all the same regulations. I think parents like to have the option if they feel their child would be more suited to playgroup.”

A council spokeswoman said the authority had carried out an extensive review of its early years service to bring it into line with Scottish Government guidance, and to provide the most efficient, consistent support to families in the area whilst also delivering best value.

“The heart of our approach is to continue to provide parents with access and a choice of childcare whilst balancing local needs related to changing demographics,” she said.

“We will provide support and advice to playgroups affected by any changes that wish to move to independent status. Transition to a viable, sustainable playgroup, independent of Aberdeenshire Council is a feasible option for communities and parents. There are many examples of successful community-run playgroups in Aberdeenshire where a committee has responsibility for managing the playgroup and they are completely independent of the council.”