The benefits of childcare clinic sessions - Bexley

In Bexley, Together for Two’s Childminding Development Worker Sally Heron has been holding monthly ‘Childcare Clinic’ sessions on the first Thursday of every month. This started in September 2020 and is due to conclude when the project ends in April 2021.

Job Centre work coaches identify claimants who express a need for advice or guidance relating to childcare and then use a monthly diary sheet with 10 half hour slots to book claimants in. The diary sheet is sent to Sally in advance of the session and she then telephones the claimants to chat about childcare and any other issues relating to barriers when looking for work.

Which type of clients/claimants are offered a claimant call?
The sessions are suggested by work coaches to any clients that are experiencing difficulties in accessing childcare, confused about childcare funding and for general advice about the childcare settings and choices that are available in Bexley.

What is the benefit to the clients that are called in this way?
Parents who chat to Sally express that it is really helpful to talk about childcare and the barriers to looking for work with an impartial person who is knowledgeable about Early Years and can unpick the confusion about the different childcare funding options that may be available.

What difference do you think it makes to the parent?
Sometimes a work coach might only have limited time to chat to a parent about childcare. Additionally they might not know about local childcare or the complexity of paying for childcare and/or eligibility criteria. When Sally chats to parents, she can get a more detailed picture about the family circumstances and can also use her local knowledge and contacts to signpost them to other professionals or agencies that may be able to help them find a childcare setting, such as the Bexley Family Information Directory.

What benefits do you think this could have for work coaches and the Job Centre as a whole?
Having this extra service has allowed work coaches to make a telephone referral to Sally in the knowledge that their client will get detailed help, removing the barrier of lack of childcare. This can support them to spend more time with the client to help with work searches and other support. It also shows clients that the job centre can offer a more holistic service and that they really care about a client’s individual circumstances and the barriers that they are currently facing. 

Additionally, some issues have come up where she has been able to pass information back to the work coach for further support. For instance, one parent for whom English was a second language said she would greatly appreciate support in building a C.V and she was able to pass this on to her work coach.

How many claimants have you spoken with to date (November 2020)?
Sally has have spoken with 19 parents over 3 sessions and they have all been lengthy and useful conversations.

What impact is Covid-19 having on the clients that you have spoken to?
Everyone spoken to has been affected in some way. Some of the issues coming up have been lack of suitable jobs to apply for (or too many applicants applying to the same jobs), family breakdown, lack of wraparound care due to local schools not reopening Breakfast / After School clubs, partners loss of jobs and also depression, anxiety and isolation.

Again it is useful for to be able to pass on these issues to the Job Centre so that they have a picture of the local difficulties.

And finally have you been able to offer any other support/advice?
Yes, including;

  • Allaying fears about starting to use childcare again due to Covid-19. Advising what childcare settings are doing to make everything Covid Safe.
  • Signposting a client to Early Years’ Service to apply for the 15 hours funded childcare for 2 year olds.
  • Talking about out of hours childcare for shift work
  • Guidance about paying for childcare up front and using the Flexible Support Fund
  • Signposting to Local Authority Families Information Service, Childcare Choices website and Gov. Childcare calculator
  • Emailed digital information pack to claimants with lots of useful information and links
  • Advice about splitting funded hours between providers
  • Signposted a family to Citizens Advice for Child Maintenance query
  • Signposted a family to Bexley Family Wellbeing Service for further family support
  • Offered and booked in a follow up call to a family with complex issues

Feedback from feedback from an Employer Advisor who has been instrumental in starting the scheme and encouraging staff to make use of it:

"The arrangements we have in place at the moment for the monthly customer calls is going very well. Our first diary in September wasn’t full with only two customers, however, one of the customers found this service extremely valuable and informative which supported her in her current situation.

Since then we have had two full lists of appointments for customers needing advice etc. around childcare in these very uncertain times, proving that the help and support is needed.

Work coaches are very pleased they can book a customer in to get the specialised help and advice which is needed now more than ever for parents and those looking after children.

PACEY have been a huge support to our customers, the relationship works very well too between PACEY and the Jobcentre as we do liaise to try and get the help that the customer needs at that time.

I really do hope we can continue to work together."