The father of a six-year-old Glenrothes girl was left feeling “sick to the pit of his stomach” after his daughter was left stranded for around half an hour following the collapse of a popular after school care service.
The St Paul’s Primary School youngster, who catches a bus every afternoon to join up with pupils from Pitcoudie Primary before boarding a second bus taking them to Collydean After School Care Club, was left alone, her parents say, for approximately 30 minutes outside Pitcoudie school on Tuesday, January 13 - 24 hours after the care club collapsed due to insolvency.
Iain McGuigan told the Gazette the potential danger his daughter Kyla was unnecessarily subjected to “did not bear thinking about” and has demanded a full investigation as to why staff at the club and members of Fife Council’s emergency intervention team failed to contact them regarding the service’s demise.
“It’s an absolute scandal that nobody took it upon themselves to contact us even though they had 24 hours to do so,” said Mr McGuigan.
“My daughter made her way to Pitcoudie school the following day but when she arrived there was no onward service and nobody there to meet her.
“We understand she was left alone for around 30 minutes in freezing temperatures and being left in such a vulnerable situation and at such a young age made me sick to the pit of my stomach thinking of what might have happened to her.”
Mr McGuigan said his daughter was about to start walking home to Cadham and it was only the intervention of a passing parent who noticed her alone and contacted the head teacher at Pitcoudie to bring it to the school’s attention.
Staff at the club then dashed to collect Kyla.
Fife Childcare Services was informed by the Care Inspectorate of the collapse of Collydean After School Club, run as a workers co-operative for many years, the day before, and immediately implemented an emergency service team of three to help parents using the service make alternative care arrangements.
But the failure to inform the child’s family has left Mr McGuigan demanding an explanation.
“It’s clear those responsible for running the club failed to keep an up to date contact list even though I have passed on our updated details on several occasions,” he explained.
“We pay for the service and Kyla is the third of our children to use it. What happened was unacceptable and left us deeply shocked and extremely angry.
“We want answers. This can not be allowed to happen to another youngster in the future.”
Carrie Lindsay, area education officer, said: “The responsibility for notifying parents lay with the former Collydean After School Club. The Council didn’t hold any information about their clients.
“However, using contact information provided by our staff, we tried to reach all parents on Monday evening to alert them to the closure.
“Unfortunately they couldn’t contact everyone and on Tuesday evening discovered that the contact numbers held for one family were wrong or out of date. Sadly this meant we weren’t aware of the collection arrangement for one child who was then left waiting for about 20 minutes.
“As soon as we were made aware of the situation, staff acted quickly to make sure she was safely taken to our crèche service.”
The family has brought the incident to the attention of the Care Commission and the police, who are understood to be investigating.
Long-term solution to maintain vital service
Leading politicians in the town welcomed the emergency intervention of Fife Council following the collapse of the club.
And there have been calls for the local authority to help secure the future of the service which provided for children and families, many from areas of significant deprivation.
Glenrothes councillor Peter Grant said: “It is imperative that we support the continuation of this service while we work with the club to find the best way to give them a long term future. I commend the early action taken by council officers to provide a temporary service.
“I have asked the council’s voluntary sector funding team to contact the club to see whether we can provide emergency funding. I am also offering to meet representatives of the club to discuss what other support we can offer.”
Councillor Altany Craik, chairman of Glenrothes Area Committee also called for a long-term strategy to be implemented to help save the service.
“Clearly the unfortunate incident with the young girl can not be allowed to happen again,” he said.
“Luckily she didn’t come to any harm but we must work to make sure we learn from the circumstances and the processes that brought about this potential risk.
“I am hopeful that we can find the emergency funding to help keep this service operating, many hard-working families depend on the availability of such provision.
“We must also provide support for the people suddenly left without a job because of the insolvency.”