A CENTRAL Fife childcare facility has made the "difficult" decision to shut its doors.

Kids Come First had been running from the Benarty Centre in Ballingry, offering before and after school care for local youngsters.

But parents and carers were told on Friday that the charity was closing and they now face a rush to find alternative childcare.

Posting on Facebook, the Benarty Centre stated: "The difficult decision was made on Friday to close Kids Come First. Please share as some parents/carers might not know."

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Local councillor Lea McClelland said council officers had been helping to resolve childcare issues but had no part in the closure.

"Kids Come First is a charity-run facility that’s used a Fife Council building. It is not a Fife Council facility," she stressed.

"The charity was run by a committee which had office bearers and was managed day-to-day by a manager.

"Elected members (all four), various Fife Council officers, Fife Voluntary Action Group and Fife Childcare have worked hard with staff at KCF to find a way to keep it going and this has met constant brick walls for one reason or another.

"Had a Fife Council officer not turned up there on Friday night, nobody would have known the facility was not opening on Monday.

"She did turn up to give parents time over the weekend to put contingency plans in place for childcare on Monday.

"If anyone has any enquiries about childcare services please contact oosc@fife.gov.uk."

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Reacting to the news which had been shared on social media, one parent said staff, parents and kids had been "severely" let down by the situation.

"Even a couple of weeks notice would have been nice," they said. "Parents would have had a little more time to try and arrange alternative childcare and the staff and kids would have known what to expect.

"There is nothing in place for our community now to allow parents to work with the exception of local childminders of which I believe there are two.

"Looking at the maps on the Fife council website, there are after school clubs – over 50 in Fife – and yet now there is a huge gap over the Ballingry / Lochore area with the closest being Lochgelly High School, who I believe do not operate in the Ballingry area.

"Can anything be done to rectify it or is our area going to be the forgotten area once more?"

Early last year, the Times reported that the Kids Come First was in "jeopardy" before urgent funding of over £6,700 from Fife Council enabled it to survive.

At the time, it offered affordable childcare to more than 60 kids.

Council project manager Scott Blyth told members of Cowdenbeath's area committee last February that it was a "well respected and needed service" in the area but had hit money problems and had urgently needed council cash to keep going in the previous October and November.

To ensure the funding got through quickly, the executive director of finance authorised the payment of £6,769 to "ensure staff were paid".

Mr Blyth's report to the committee said the charity had experienced "historic challenges" which had significantly impacted its ability to secure grant funding.

However he added that a new board of trustees, along with better governance, financial control and care commission reports, had given Kids Come First a "fresh start" and the future was looking brighter.

In December last year, the charity worked in conjunction with Cycle Scotland to deliver 15 new bikes to local youngsters.

At the time, while welcoming the initiative, manager Michelle MacGregor stressed that support was still needed and the charity required funding to continue its efforts to serve the community.

The Times contacted Kids Come First for comment but they had not responded by the time of going to print.

Fife Council’s Community Manager Anne-Marie Vance confirmed the council has been supporting the charity Kids Come First but they had to cease operating last week.

“It’s disappointing that staff, parents and carers were unable to receive more advanced notice of the closure," she said.

"Anyone affected who is looking to register an interest in Fife Council childcare services should email us at oosc@fife.gov.uk.”

A spokesperson for charity regulator OSCR said: "As of today (06 February 2024), OSCR has not received an application from the charity to wind up or dissolve.

"However, we have contacted the charity to let them know they must submit an application to OSCR if the charity is dissolving. Any application we receive will be dealt with in line with our usual polices and procedures."