Multiple moves are afoot to make childcare more flexible and affordable as individuals and organisations respond to public demand and a changing work culture.
One such organisation is Essential Care 4 Children
, a social enterprise set up in late 2011 as part of the Essential Social Enterprises Community Interest Company.
They want to provide a diverse and inclusive range of high quality and affordable childcare services which are accessible to all parents. That includes services for parents of children with disabilities, such as before and after school care, holidays clubs and overnight and respite care.
It is currently working on a scheme to provide co-working hubs for freelance and self-employed people and on site crèches offering flexible childcare. They also plan to work with companies who want to provide such facilities for their staff.
Stacey Renphrey provides advice and support for the hub being set up in the south east region.
She says: “It’s really exciting. Essential Care is a social enterprise company so it’s all about engaging the community to help society.”
Jill and Jasmine Cunningham are the directors of Essential Care 4 Children. Based in Lancashire, their experience includes nurseries and respite care.
Stacey is a freelance with two young sons and a husband who works shifts. She says she currently ends up paying for four days of childcare she doesn’t need because it is not flexible enough for her family’s needs. She can’t wait for the co-working hubs to be up and running so she only has to pay for the hours she needs.
“The working environment has been changing so fast, but childcare is still sitting in the 80s and 90s when people worked 9-5 Monday to Friday,” says Stacey. “More people are working from home, but many mums feel guilty if they are working while the children are there. People are chomping at the bit for the kind of solution co-working hubs with crèches offer.”
Stacey’s oldest son is due to start school in September. “If I can take my youngest to a crèche for four or five hours I could get all my work finished so I could just be a mum after school finishes. Many people are in this position,” she says.
The first hub is being set up in the north east and that will be followed by others, including one in the south east near Horsham, where Stacey is based. Essential Care is applying for funding, including social enterprise grants, to support its ambition to cover the whole country.
Since Essential Care is part of a broader social enterprise group the hubs are likely to be based in community centres which offer other facilities, including support services and advice for people running their own businesses.
The organisation is working with the Mobile Creche Company who are used to providing flexible childcare services, for instance, in the corporate sector – an area Essential Care is keen to look into. “If companies are worried staff are not returning to work after having children because of childcare issues, they can come and talk to us,” says Stacey. “We want to provide childcare solutions which work for everyone.”
Essential Care is still gathering information through its social networks on the type of flexible care people want so that they can build a clear idea of staffing needs. At the moment they are planning to have the crèches work on a drop-in basis with around 15 places on offer which would be allocated on a first come first served basis, although it would be possible to pre-book places, says Stacey.
They are also working out what would be a reasonable cost.
The organisation did a survey recently to find out what people wanted in terms of childcare.
“The key issue that came out of that was the inflexibility of the childcare services which are currently available,” says Stacey.
Watch this space.