Parents panicking about the closure of council-run after-school clubs in Aberdeenshire have been recommended a DIY solution by a pair of Aberdeen mums.
Aberdeenshire Council voted last week to close all out of school care (OOSC) in the region.
Full-time working Aberdeen mums Beth Towsey and Dawn Robertson-Scott were left in a similar situation when their after-school care closed a year ago.
Beth has a six and seven-year-old at Cults Primary, and Dawn has a six-year-old at the school.
They used a private after-school childcare provider, Scamps, as there was a four-year waiting list at the council-run facility at Cults Primary.
In February 2023 parents using Scamps were given four weeks’ notice that the service was closing.
‘We feel terrible for those affected by withdrawal of out-of-school care in Aberdeenshire’
This left the Cults mums brainstorming solutions.
After much research, they designed their own after-school care service, CHAMPS, which launched in August 2023.
They use Hillview Community Church, which is next door to Cults Primary, and have 20 places.
At £15 for a session, their service is cheaper than the council-run one.
Beth said she feels “terrible” for parents affected by last week’s news that all Aberdeenshire Council-run after-school clubs will be closing in July.
…but there is a solution to after-school worries
But her message to parents is that there is a solution.
“Dawn and I fully empathise with the concern – and stress – last week’s news is undoubtedly causing working parents,” said Beth.
“We feel terrible for those affected because your first instinct is to panic, you don’t know what to do.
“As working mums we’ve both been in that situation.
“We’re both directors of companies in our late-30s, we live busy lives. But there is a way, it is possible. You just need that belief.
“It took us a lot of research, but since August the service has and continues to be a great success, offering a local, parent-led solution for childcare which is actually cheaper than council-provided settings.
“It’s a model that is fairly easy to roll out once you know what you’re doing.”
Beth and Dawn now employ three staff to manage the service. They are supported by three volunteers from Cults Academy who are using the volunteering to support their Duke of Edinburgh Awards.
There are also parent volunteers who come in to help.
‘A really active network of working parents who can rely on each other’
“It’s not a profit-making exercise, we just cover our overheads,” said Beth.
“It started off as a sort of selfish solution for ourselves, and we’ve been able to bring other parents and kids along on the journey.
“It is a challenge, there’s no getting away from that. But the information is out there. It is an option.
“It’s working for us. And it’s been totally worth it.
“We have total autonomy, and buy-in from the community with a really active network of working parents who can rely on each other.
“We lean on each other. If someone can’t pick their child up one day, another parent can help out. We’ve got to know each other and built those relationships.”
Beth and Dawn hoping to expand Aberdeen after-school club to ’50 or 60 children’
Beth and Dawn set a limit of 20 kids for the first academic year of their venture while they tested the water.
Having seen not just how successful that venture has been, but how big the need is for after-school care, they are now considering expanding the service significantly.
“There’s a potential option to grow the service, there’s another space within the church that we could hire. That would allow us to take on more children.
“So we could go up to about 50 or 60 children. We’d just need to employ more people to meet the adult to child ratio.”