The square peg and round hole story of Early Learning and Childcare

Change is coming

The world of early learning and childcare (ELC) is currently whirling and spinning its way to bigger and, hopefully, better things. Increased funded hours, funding follows the child, new settings and much more are on their way as we race towards the Scottish Government’s 2020 Blueprint for ELC. Yet despite all these changes much of the traditional delivery model still doesn’t meet the needs of children, families and communities. The hours don’t suit, it’s too expensive, parents can’t get places with their provider of choice and siblings may have to attend different settings.

We’re trying to fit the square peg needs of children and families into the round holes of existing provision and it’s just not working.

Flexible Childcare Services Scotland

With this in mind; One Parent Families Scotland (OPFS) created an innovative new childcare organisation to challenge the inflexibility of current provision and to ensure equity of early learning and childcare experience for all children. Flexible Childcare Services Scotland (FCSS) is digging away to square off those holes and achieve a perfect fit.

Twenty years ago, in March 1999, OPFS began to deliver its first flexible childcare provision. In its earliest format this was a sitter service which, while meeting the need for care, was by its very nature limited in the opportunities it could provide for early learning.

Dundee Pilot Project

In 2015 a pilot project was created in Dundee offering truly accessible day care in the heart of the community. The service operates hours that reflect the working and study patterns of the families attending and provides a drop off and pick up service to get children safely to and from the setting.

Families pay only for the care they need as opposed to having to book and pay for set sessions. In addition to this FCSS charges no deposit or upfront fees and no holiday retainer.

Here’s what some of the service users have to say about FCSS:

“We love the day-care service because of the flexibility and the staff! My husband works shifts and has days off during the week, so we don’t have to pay for a ‘full-time space’ like we would need to at every other nursery in Dundee, when we don’t need it. It has meant that we can still both work but have high quality childcare that we are not just working to pay for, so it has enhanced our quality of life. The staff are all amazing with our daughter and us as parents too!”

“Without the flexibility of the service we would be paying four times as much in childcare. We are lucky to have my mother-in-law help two days a week. I am a nurse who works shifts, therefore, our requirements vary on a weekly basis.”

The benefits of flexible provision

The benefits generated by FCSS provision include:

  • opportunities for parents to work or study, secure in the knowledge that high quality care is available for their child/children at hours to suit their work/study pattern
  • improved financial wellbeing and less reliance on benefits
  • supporting increased employment levels
  • helps to improve the local economy as parents contribute through taxes and have earnings available to spend locally
  • flexible booking patterns mean families spend more quality time together when not working
  • families experience improved living standards and feelings of wellbeing, children have more opportunities and attainment gaps are narrowed.