Quality care

The Olympics could mean some parents who use nurseries near their workplaces face childcare issues if they work from home in August. Riverside Childcare is ready to step into the breach. The childcare agency spoke to Workingmums.co.uk.

Riverside Childcare [www.riversidechildcare.com] is ready to step into the breach. It has a back up and evening babysitter service which it thinks could help plug a gap over the next few months. It has been contacting hotels and apartments in the East and Central London that might want babysitting and nannying services for visiting tourists. The back-up service could help people who are working from home and normally use a nursery near their workplace.

Riverside was set up in 1989 by Gaby Morris [pictured] and Jill Wheatcroft, then a Children’s Nurse, now a Lecturer in Child Health. Gaby had worked in HR in the fashion industry and had a good knowledge of the whole recruitment process and the needs of the creative community. When she needed to recruit a nanny for her first child she discovered that agencies simply didn’t supply the newly gentrified Wapping or understand the needs of families in what was then (pre-Canary Wharf) an emerging area of London.

Jill and Gaby could see a gap in the market and given their joint expertise decided to set up a service that responded not just to working families but also to the growing artistic and freelance community in East London.

The nanny agency developed rapidly and they were soon supplying childcare staff to schools, nurseries, day-care settings and businesses. All staff have their references thoroughly checked and police clearances run to Enhanced level. In 2005, they started training childcare workers in classroom and nursery settings and 2010 saw them add distance learning. Paediatric First Aid taught by Jill has proved incredibly popular. “We were expecting that the people who came to us with NVQ Level 3 qualifications would be of a certain quality, but that was not always the case,” says Director of Training Heather Wilkinson who has worked as a nanny, a maternity nurse, at senior levels in day-care settings and now assesses students and childcare trainers. “We thought Jill and I together could offer something that would raise the standards of childcare and that is Riverside’s raison d’etre.”

Riverside also provides an emergency back-up nanny service for which there is no registration fee. Heather says demand fell last year due to the economic situation, but is high now. “People’s working lives are changing. More people are taking short-term contracts or freelancing to get more flexibility and many are working flexibly in paid jobs. We also get a lot of demand in the school holidays and when there are emergencies, such as teacher strikes or children have contagious illnesses and cannot access nurseries,” she says.

The agency opens at 7.30am Monday to Friday and can normally get an emergency nanny out to a family straight away. It tries to match nannies to the family’s needs. Usually Riverside suggests an hour handover period so the nanny can learn all they need to know about the child’s routines, but Heather says the nannies they send are very experienced if less time is available.

Gaby has recently moved to New York and Heather says this has actually worked out well for the company. She now does all the social media for Riverside and has regular conference calls with the team. Heather says she is able to spot trends in the US which the company can build on in the UK. For instance, Riverside is currently looking at offering an elderly care service, including training. Working Mother magazine says in the US elder care is now the biggest reason cited for women dropping out of the workplace.

“From this summer we will be providing something like a mother’s help,” says Heather, “who will go into people’s homes for a few hours and help out or just offer companionship. Having Gaby in the US means we can get a feel for how things work in the US.”

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