The Government has been running a consultation on how to cut red tape in childcare — what legislation works for providers and parents, and where perception of the law might, in their words, ‘may be driving unnecessary behaviour’. We are interested in this topic because it is relevant to our work on radical childcare — how providers might be able to work within the law to provide imaginative and pragmatic alternatives that also stress-test current legislation designed for more mainstream (and in themselves overstressed) childcare providers.
More information about the consultation can be found at https://cutting-red-tape.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/childcare/#comment-1582. A copy of our response is below.
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With private childcare providers already stretched to meet the current provision of fifteen hours, asking front line workers to increase their offering to thirty hours without significant investment from Government is not sustainable. As part of our Arts Council and Innovate UK-funded work at Near Now, a design studio in Nottingham, we have been working on a project to imagine childcare alternatives that would be operable in current legislative frameworks.
The current childcare system is broken: the UK is second only to Switzerland in terms of cost, and many parents complain that the inflexibility of mainstream provision is out of step with their working patterns. With more freelancers and micro-business than ever before, the issue of childcare is no longer deemed to be a women’s issue, but a wider question about how we can work and care for others in a way that complement, rather than contradict each other.
We believe that good quality childcare that works for parents and children — not just providers — leads to greater diversity and inclusion in wider society. We also believe that parents are at present undervalued by current mainstream childcare providers, which rely on transactional relationships. Our research indicates that many parents would like to be more involved in childcare, and in doing so learn new skills from peers — whilst being able to work on the flexible basis so often demanded of freelancers.
The perceived benefits of multi-stakeholder childcare co-ops are:
- Providing a continuity of care to the child
- An opportunity to upskill parents
- Better pay and benefits for the childcare worker(s)
- Improved relationship between parent & setting
- Improved childhood outcomes — including home learning and improved flow of information on milestones and child development
- Settings better able to respond to the needs of parents and able to adjust services to meet demand
Working together as a team from different backgrounds [the creative sector, product and service design and policy respectively], we are designing a prototype which would allow parents to group together to form a childcare co-operative, in which all members commit time and resources to looking after each other’s children alongside their own with highly qualified childcare professional(s) in a non domestic setting.
In this setting, the legislation from OFSTED has not been too difficult or onerous to operate within. By building a model, used by parents, which ensures that care arrangements meet minimum legislative requirements (number of children to staff ratio, floor space, and mixture of qualified [childcare] and non qualified staff [parents acting as playworkers]), we can develop a typology of childcare that we would actually want, rather than stretching resources already at breaking point.
We would welcome a conversation with OFSTED about the following:
- If our model works — perhaps OFSTED would be interested in working with us to make legislation more legible to users?
- How OFSTED can help to drive innovation in this sector by facilitating conversations about the kind of childcare parents actually want
- How parental involvement in and co-design of childcare can increase standards, and how OFSTED might work with us to enhance their risk register and oversight responsibilities.
The New Economics Foundation have been doing a lot of work in this area, and propose that Co-operative Childcare could form part of the solution. Childcare Co-ops are common in Canada and New Zealand — we think this is as much down to culture as to legislation frameworks that are designed to make this model viable.
For more information about Radical Childcare, please see http://www.famalam.org/.
Amy Martin is a Creative Producer and Director of Impact Hub Birmingham (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Marta Monge is a Product Designer, who recently completed her MA at Central St Martins (email@example.com)