01 February 2024

Council delivery of out of school care to come to an end in July

Aberdeenshire Council has agreed a date to stop direct delivery of out of school care.

The council has pledged to continue engagement with the private, voluntary, and independent sectors to support them in developing their own out of school care across Aberdeenshire.

During a meeting of the Education and Children’s Services Committee on Thursday (February 1), the committee, following a vote, agreed to no longer provide out of school care from the end of the school year (July 6). 

The agreement on a date follows the decision made last year to refocus council resources to support the wider sector, parents and communities to develop their own solutions.

There are currently eight council-run out of school care venues which will be affected by the decision.

These are based in Ellon, Westhill, Banchory, Balmedie, Pitmedden, Mintlaw, Portlethen, and Inverbervie.

They offer care across 15 of the 146 primary schools in Aberdeenshire, providing a service to a total of 349 children, around 2% of all primary-aged pupils in the shire. 

Sessions provided by the council are utilised around 64% of the time, impacting on the viability of the clubs.

Across Aberdeenshire there are 23 private, voluntary, and independent clubs and around 300 childminders. Supporting the development of further provision across Aberdeenshire will help address the shortage of out of school care, for example, where there are currently no out of school care providers operating, such as in Peterhead, Fraserburgh and Turriff.

The committee heard that uptake for out of school care, which is not a statutory service the council is required to provide, has decreased, whilst staffing has proved to be difficult. 

Those currently running see each child, in effect, subsidised by the taxpayer by around £1,400 each year.

Out of school care was streamlined in 2019 in the hope it could be cost-neutral to the council. This proved impossible to achieve with out of school care forecast to overspend its budget by more than £740,000 by the end of the financial year.

Committee Chair Cllr David Keating said: “Most out of school clubs in operation are mainly run by the private, voluntary and independent sector, and for those that we do run, the provision isn’t available in every community across Aberdeenshire.

“We appreciate today’s decision will impact on the families of the 349 children currently accessing council-run services, and for that I can only apologise. 

“Unfortunately, we are now having to make extremely tough decisions, and this service is not something we are statutorily required to provide. We know the importance of notice and by setting a date, parents and carers will have the more time to make alternative arrangements. 

“The private, voluntary and independent sectors have much greater flexibility to make the service work and today’s decision gives them certainty for their planning.”

Vice chair of ECS Cllr Anne Simpson added: “We absolutely recognise that for the parents and children affected by this, this is a blow to them, but this decision is based around equity as much as it is about the finances.

“The inequity of what currently exists - and what is essentially a postcode lottery - I believe we should be helping the private and voluntary sector to set up out of school clubs right across Aberdeenshire, rather than delivering them to a select few.

“The council is working hard behind the scenes to ensure this service can continue with the private and voluntary sector in the future.

“With a date now set, our work with different sectors could allow them to step into the space we leave behind allowing them the time to begin their planning today.”

The decision to stop direct delivery came following a vote.

An amendment to the motion was proposed by Cllr Jenny Nicol and seconded by Cllr Louise McAllister to refuse the withdrawal of direct out of school care service provision.

There were 11 votes for the motion to accept the recommendation in the report, moved by Cllr Anne Simpson and seconded by Cllr Jim Gifford, and six votes for the amendment.