The fate of north-east nursery staff due to start work in the summer to accommodate extended childcare areas is now up in the air because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Scottish Government officials had intended to extended the number of annual childcare hours for three and four-year-olds from 600 to 1,140 hours from August – but that has been delayed.
When introduced, the extra hours will mean more children staying to eat and sleep at nurseries, so many are taking on extra staff while some are extending buildings, includng Cults Primary School in Aberdeen.
It is understood local authorities are now working through the detail on how the delay will impact them.
An Aberdeen City Council spokeswoman said: “This is impacting on the delivery of the early learning and childcare (ELC) programme.
“While works are stopping and sites are made safe and secure, design and development work will continue and the construction programme will go ahead only when it is absolutely safe to do so.
“The ELC expansion team is currently reviewing the impact of Covid-19 on the delivery of the offer to families.”
An Aberdeenshire Council spokesman said: “We would like to pay tribute to funded providers across Aberdeenshire who have helped us to be on course to meet the statutory requirement of offering 1,140 hours of additional early learning and childcare by August.
“We look forward to continuing this important work once Scottish and UK Government advice allows.”
Angus Council said decisions relating to the extended hours delay were being taken within a dynamic environment.
A Moray Council spokeswoman said: “We completed the construction of two nurseries just before lockdown.
“These are currently in the handover phase.
“Construction of a nursery in Keith and other refurbishment projects are now on hold due to the instruction from the Scottish Government to halt construction.
“All recruitment for Moray Council is on hold, with the exception of essential workers.
“However, our plans to recruit an additional 120 colleagues in ELC are well developed and we are in a strong position to recover quickly when recruitment reopens.”
She added that the council would not be able to provide the extended hours to all parents by August.
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Meanwhile, some north-east parents have asked the Scottish Government for clarity after receiving conflicting information about the availability of childcare during the coronavirus pandemic.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said childminders should only be open to key workers or vulnerable children.
It is “strongly advising” childminders to limit the number of households for whom they provide childcare to a maximum of two, other than their own, at any one time to stop the spread of Covid-19.
A spokeswoman added: “The Scottish Government and Care Inspectorate contacted registered childminders on March 25 to advise strongly that all work, other than that for key worker families and vulnerable children, should stop until further notice.”
Some parents have complained of childminders charging them in part or full, even if they are not providing a service.
The spokeswoman added: “Charging policies are a matter for individual businesses.
“However we are asking childcare providers, including childminders, to be reasonable and balanced in dealing with parents, recognising the unprecedented situation.”