Workingmums.co.uk speaks to Emma Dewey, director of Families Work, about support for working families.
Emma Dewey has years of experience in childcare, but it was when she was running parenting, cv and confidence-building workshops with highly articulate, educated women who had had high-flying jobs in the City but had lost all confidence since taking a career break that she realised there was a big need for work to be done with employers on supporting working families.
“The problem was that these women had lost their confidence,” she says. “They were often very educated and articulate. They just had no confidence that they could go back to their old career and that they needed to change sector, but why should they?”
At the end of last year, just after having her daughter Grace, she set up Families Work. It works with companies within the media and corporate sector to support their working parents. It says its services focus on “alleviating the stress that is often involved in dealing with the practical and emotional issues of raising a family and managing a successful career”.
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Services include childcare search, emergency childcare, maternity coaching, parent workshops on issues from dealing with teens to being a working parent, one to one parent support including managing challenging behaviour and consultancy work with employers to find effective way to engage and retain the best talent.
Families Work is working with people in the creative sector, including with a big advertising agency and Emma sees this as a growth area for her. She says City companies are ahead of the curve on family support, but creative companies, especially smaller companies in the sector, face a number of challenges, for instance, the fact that they work with a lot of freelances.
Families Work, which employs three coaches as well as administrative staff, runs alongside a childcare training agency Emma set up called Babyem, which has trained around 80 nannies, maternity nurses and childcare professionals.
Emma, who has worked in outreach at a children’s centre in East London and on parental involvement outreach for the Welcare charity, says childcare needs to be worked out on a case by case basis around individual parents’ needs. “We don’t act like a traditional nanny agency. We go through everything with parents, including their child’s development and we have access to wider sources of support such as speech and language specialists. We’re like a children’s centre, offering multi-agency, wraparound care.”
She says sometimes parents come with preconceptions about the kind of childcare available. For instance, they might not have considered childminders when these might make more sense if their hours are irregular and they need more flexibility than a nursery can offer. They might be put off nannies, thinking they are too expensive when nanny shares can offer flexible care and may be much more affordable than many people think.
She is able to offer lots of emergency childcare solutions as she has access to a pool of trained nannies, nursery staff and maternity nurses through Babyem.
As she runs her own business and is the main breadwinner, Emma was working up to the moment she gave birth and soon after. The benefit of running a childcare and maternity business, though, is that she can work fairly flexibly. Also, her husband, a cabinet maker, works four days a week and looks after their daughter Grace one day a week. His employer is flexible and allows him to drop his hours if Grace is ill. “He loves being involved with Grace,” says Emma. Her mother also helps out one day a week and Grace goes to a childminder two days a week. “They say it takes a village to raise a child. I feel I had an army,” she adds. “I’m very lucky in that respect, but many people don’t have family and friends around.” Her mum not only provided practical support in the early days but also emotional support as Emma tried to work around her baby’s sleep patterns, which sometimes meant emailing people in the middle of the night.
For those parents who don’t have family to hand, she says Babyem provides post-natal support at a cost effective price. Trainee maternity nurses – who have five years of nanny training – can provide support to families for a £50 administration fee, much less than the usual £200 a day fee. “We helped one family for seven weeks,” says Emma. “It’s just good to have someone to talk to.”