Baby steps but Islay childcare plan moves forward

The road to establishing a nursery care provision on Islay has been full of ups and downs but young islanders Belle and Porter Armstrong, aged 4 and 1 are keeping an optimistic outlook.

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A group of mums on Islay have moved a step closer to their goal of opening a non-profit, community-owned childcare facility.

The island has had no childcare facility since 2017, when Little Angels Childcare closed, and only two independent childminders to accommodate the high demand for the service.

Following three years of consultations, set backs and sheer determination, however, the group, now known as Sonas Childcare, are a step nearer their goal and are appealing to Argyll and Bute Council to back their project.

‘With an island community it is vitally important that this lifeline facility is in place, not just for the people who are currently struggling with childcare, but also those who may be deciding whether to stay on the island to have a family, or even essential workers such as teachers or NHS staff who are needed on the island but would be put off moving here if their children cannot be cared for,’ said Sonas spokesperson Katherine Wells.

With all efforts to find a suitable central location exhausted without success in their first two years, Sonas were approached by the Port Ellen-based South Islay Development (SID) who had a project in mind to redevelop the Port Ellen Playing Fields and thought a nursery would sit well within those plans.

With help from Islay Energy Trust’s Community Benefit Fund, a business plan was drawn up and a further feasibility study, assisted by Community Links Scotland, was carried out.

The collaboration between SID and Sonas continued for months with positive progress being made, until earlier this year when funders rejected the first proposal for the redevelopment.

All was not lost, however, and a suggested alternative location by SID, the old Port Ellen School House has now moved into Stage 2 of the Scottish Land Fund application process, which they will receive feedback on in November this year.

‘It is ideal in terms of its proximity and close connection with a village school and pre-5 unit, as well as providing outdoor space,’ added Katherine.

‘It is now, more than ever, that this project and the island community get the backing
and support of Argyll and Bute Council.’