Council To Improve Funding For Off-Island Access

Higher Town Quay, St Martin’s

The Council will trial a new system to help parents and children from the off-islands get better access to services on St Mary’s.

Manager Joel Williams told Councillors at Tuesday’s Children and Young People Committee, that the aim is to target “hard-to-reach” parents on the off-islands who often don’t use the services because of transport costs.

These include nursery places, after-school activities and holiday clubs.

Joel consulted with parents over the summer and that identified a new problem area. He said many parents were left “killing time” on St Mary’s while their children were at childcare or nursery facilities.

The new policy will make funding available for them to return to their home island, to continue paid work, and to pick their child up later in the day.

The parents also requested a taxi service from the quay to the childcare facility or school, but he says that has raised safeguarding issues. They’re continuing to look into this but Joel said there was “no easy solution.”

The Council currently spends £38,500 on access funding for youth activities, all of it free to parents. During the consultation, Joel said parents were asked if they would be willing to make a contribution, but said this would put them off accessing the services.

Committee chair, Christine Savill, said they had noticed during recent off-island school visits that some children who had not accessed pre-school activities had poorer social skills than the children who had.

She was also keen that parents used scheduled boats, rather than specials whenever possible and any chartered boats should be limited to one a day.

Chris said parents need to understand this funding “is a privilege” and shouldn’t schedule boats around their appointments.

She also wanted parents to take responsibility for their children and not have one adult looking after several children on a boat.

The new policy will be tried for a year and Joel says a brochure will be published to highlight the help available.