Kate Mullender has experienced the need for emergency childcare from both sides of the fence.
As a mum formerly working in the car industry, she had two childminders when her daughter was born so she would have greater back-up care.
She eventually left the car industry to work part time in a family support charity, but became a childminder when she had her son two years ago because of childcare costs.
As a childminder, she has had to contact different groups of parents when her children are sick. “It’s horrible having to let parents down,” she says, “and it’s horrible to be let down, but it’s just a fact of life that these things happen sometimes. People get ill and you get let down on childcare so you need to have back-up.”
Having seen things from both sides, she recognises the growing demand for affordable emergency care and has set up an organisation which aims to cut out the agency middle man and put parents in direct contact with childcare providers who can meet their needs, whether that be childminders, nannies or babysitters.
Berkshire-based Kate set up her website,www.backupmychildcare.co.uk
, a year ago and all the childcare providers registered on it are Ofsted-registered. They post their details for free and parents pay an annual membership fee of £25 a year to have access to them, which Kate says is minimal compared to out providers of emergency care. “My aim is to keep what we provide affordable,” she says.
Together with details about what they provide, their availability and their qualifications, childcare providers post their hourly rate which can be as low as £3.50. Kate also wants to help parents who are looking for work who need emergency childcare to attend interviews and charges a monthly membership rate of just £3.50 for this purpose.
She says many of the providers are childminders who are not running to full capacity. For instance, they might have children only four days a week because many parents work flexibly or they might have a certain number of children who they just care for after school hours or in term time. The childcare providers have their own login details and can update their availability if it changes. Kate says she is considering stipulating that providers who do not update their availability may be struck off. “If two or three parents say a provider is not available when they say there may come a point where we need to strike them off,” she says.
Parents currently search on the nationwide site on a town by town basis. Kate will soon change this to a postcode search so parents can look at availability within a certain radius from their homes or their workplace.
So far she has over 300 childcare providers registered on the site and she is growing this number all the time so she can offer parents more choice.
“So many people are working flexibly and shift patterns can suddenly change to include weekends, for instance. The world of work has changed so much and parents need ready access to information on emergency care and they can browse the site at any time, even in the middle of the night,” says Kate. She adds that many people now feel very vulnerable about losing their jobs which makes it more difficult to take time off for unforeseen emergencies, such as weather problems or strikes.
Kate has also been developing links with employers and works in partnership with the John Lewis Partnership to provide emergency back-up care for their employees. It’s part of the company’s benefits for staff.
"The website gives parents more freedom to make new childcare connections and relationships. It’s always good to have two or three back-up childcare providers and parents are free to build up an ongoing relationship, for instance, for babysitting,” she adds.