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With childcare very squeezed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, parents are looking at new ways to help each other out. One new app could help.
With holiday play schemes likely to be restricted, what can working parents do over the summer?
Rachel Beech from the app We Are Fetching has come up with one solution. She has created a holiday playdate function that parents can sign up to which enables a group of parents at the same school to organise and pay back playdates. Of course, it will rely on an easing of the lockdown, but it builds on what We Are Fetching currently offers and is the kind of informal support system that may come in very useful in the coming months particularly with no end yet in site to the schools situation.
Rachel came up with the idea for the We Are Fetching app last year after a snow day at her son’s school and when she and her friends didn’t have anyone to do pick-ups at the last minute. The three got together and arranged a rotating system for collecting each other’s children on different days of the week. But their kids fell out with each other and having fixed days limited the mums.
So Rachel looked at how to broaden it and make it more flexible. She came up with We Are Fetching, a childcare sharing platform where parents can choose a closed bubble of friends who can pick up their child and earn credits which they can then repay by picking up any other child in the group when they are able to, rather than on a day which suits one particular parent. There is a cap of four children per parent in case they have to go in a car. People in the bubble can be switched on or off, for instance, if your child falls out with a particular child.
The platform is integrated with your child’s school and it automatically emails them to let them know who is picking up. There is a profile of the parent and their phone number. Rachel says schools find it much easier than parents ringing them individually if, for instance, they are running late. “There are not multiple streams of communications. Everything is in one place,” says Rachel. For parents, they can be running late and raise a request on the platform which automatically alerts everyone else in their bubble. Once someone accepts the school is updated. Parents do not have to give a reason for putting in a request which means, says Rachel, there is no need for parental guilt.
She has been working very closely with schools on building the secure software. Some have gone a step further and asked that parents either use the app or a parent picks up their children. Rachel had quit her job in marketing to go full time on the app earlier this year, had tested the app and was pushing to get it to 1,000 parents so it could be added to Playstore and the Apple store when Covid-19 hit. Since then she has been spreading awareness about the app and says the response from parents has been very positive. The only problem is that schools are not back to normal yet and most households still have to social distance.
Rachel hopes this will be eased a little over the summer so the holiday playdates scheme can operate. As holiday playdates are longer than school pick-ups parents will earn extra credits. Parents can build up up to 10 debit points before they have to pay anything on the app. Rachel describes it as functioning in a similar way to an overdraft. Parents can also take out subscriptions of 10 or 20 pounds a month to cover their ‘overdraft’ and Rachel says that having the cap means that people will not abuse the system.
Another plan that has been put on hold is an idea for a kind of ‘freshers week’ for new parents to meet each other so they can develop their groups.
Rachel says the aim is to make life easier for parents. “It’s all about community and service,” she says.