Before the lock-down with the COVID-19 Pandemic, Congleton Town Council ran a workshop with childcare experts – providers and parents – to discuss how childcare services can be promoted and/or improved to meet the needs of families in Congleton. Good childcare is one of the most important enablers to inclusion and equality and Congleton Town Council has these as one of the priorities in its 2019-2023 Business Plan.
Facilitating the workshop were Councillors Kay Wesley and Suzy Firkin.
In a 2019 Congleton survey, 83% of respondents said that the lack of access to the right kind of affordable childcare had impacted them in some way, for example the ability to work, study or get promoted, or had had an impact on their relationships or family life. Some of those who answered the survey volunteered to attend this workshop to help develop potential solutions.
The workshop identified some key issues that need to be resolved in Congleton, in particular that the cost and lack of flexibility of childcare options provide a barrier to (mostly) women working and progressing their careers. This impacts our community more widely, reducing opportunities for fathers to be more involved parents, mothers (especially single ones) to return to work, and employers to tap into local talent to fill jobs.
At the workshop the group concluded that government allowances are not adequate to cover the costs of providing childcare, which means many providers are running on a shoestring and are incentivised to take more affluent parents/children in preference to those who need affordable childcare the most, which exacerbates some of the problems.
Also, both parents and employers are often unaware of facilities and financial options such as available tax allowances, which might improve provision and affordability.
This led to thoughts of solutions, and the attendees of the workshop identified some potential ‘quick wins’ and some more ambitious suggestions to be worked on. Ideas included:
- Providing a ‘childcare hub’ of information for parents, providers and employers
- The Town Council leading the way in childcare good practice
- Working with local employers to promote benefits of supporting parents with flexible working and childcare options
- Investigating a Congleton workplace nursery scheme to help small businesses provide tax-efficient options for parents who work for them
Although the current focus of the Town Council is very much on what needs to be done to help the Town during the Coronavirus crisis, work is continuing on developing projects and work streams connected to the Business Plan. Anyone who is interested in contributing ideas or expertise – employer, provider or user of childcare services – please get in touch with Councillor Kay Wesley at firstname.lastname@example.org or Ruth Burgess email@example.com