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Highlands to get nine hubs providing childcare for key workers

By Scott Maclennan

The hubs will be located in currently empty schools.
The hubs will be located in currently empty schools.

Highland Council is set to launch nine hubs to care for the children of key workers who must be able to attend their jobs during the coronavirus outbreak.

Key workers who applied for a place for their children will be contacted by the end of the day about arrangements that have been put in place, according to the council.

The local authority has been working to set-up centres which will be located at schools that have been shut until the infection is brought under control.

The centres are expected to be hosted at the following schools: Millburn Academy, Inverness Royal Academy; Dingwall Academy; Portree High School; Lochaber High School; Ullapool Academy; Golspie High School, Noss Primary and Miller Academy.

They will be staffed by volunteers drawn from council staff who have been checked to ensure that they are enrolled in the Protecting Vulnerable Groups scheme.

But the council emphasised a number of key points about the allocation of places in the hubs for the children of key workers and what to expect from them.

With limited places across the region, not everyone who has requested a place will get one so emergency services and those directly involved in dealing with Covid-19 will be given priority.

However, the council will be working hard to increase capacity over the coming days and weeks.

Requesting a place in a hub should be an option of last resort and a place should only be requested after all other avenues of childcare have been exhausted.

The Scottish Government has issued public health advice about this and expects parents and carers to have explored all other options, such as using partners who are not key workers, using older children to supervise younger children, seeking changed shift patterns to avoid the need for childcare and so on.

Children of key workers aged up to five years old will be placed in nursery settings and where possible will remain with their existing childcare providers.

The hubs are not replacement schools despite being located in primaries and academies so children will be expected to bring their own work and materials that have been allocated to them by their own school but they will be supervised while they work though these.

Where practical and safe, age appropriate activities will also be arranged. But social distancing, health and hygiene practices will be in place – albeit in recognition that with young, energetic, children this will be a challenge to maintain at all times.

It remains the case that home is the safest place for everyone, including children.

The most recent Scottish Government information on key workers can be found here

All our coronavirus coverage can be found here

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