4Children unveils plans for community childcare hubs

By Gabriella Jozwiak

| 14 May 2013

Childcare provision in six communities across England is to be supported by a system of hubs as part of a government-funded trial.

Childcare hubs could be located in schools and children's centres. Image: Peter Crane

Charity 4Children expects the Community Childcare Hubs to be operating by the end of May, once locations have been confirmed.

The hubs will be based in early years settings such as schools, private nurseries or children’s centres that are rated as having outstanding quality.

One of their roles will be to improve the quality of all forms of local childcare provision, including within private, voluntary and independent nurseries, maintained nurseries and childminders, through peer-to-peer mentoring and sharing best practice.

They will work with local authorities to create more early years provision in areas where there is a shortage, particularly for disadvantaged two-year-olds, in time to meet the the free childcare entitlement that starts in September.

The hubs will also offer parents "blended" childcare options to encourage flexible support for working families.

Sue Robb, head of early years at 4Children, said one example of blended childcare could see a hub locate a nursery and a childminder to cover the amount of childcare hours a parent needs.

She also said information and guidance provided by the hub would be available for free for all families.

“Each hub will have a hub leader who will work with 4Children to pull together all the outstanding provision in a locality to form a hub, but all the provision available is already in existence,” Robb explained.

Robb said 4Children was currently confirming the hubs' locations, after identifying potential sites in Northumberland, London, outer-London, Stroud, Lancashire, Cambridge and Leeds.

She said it was too early to say how many children would be supported in total by the hubs.

She also emphasised that the hubs were a “completely different” concept from the government’s plans to establish childminding agencies.

Liz Bayram, joint chief executive of the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (Pacey) backed the hub’s aim to support more families to access flexible, quality childcare.

“We hope these new hubs will make it easier for families to blend high-quality childcare but recognise it will be difficult to deliver,” said Bayram.

“Critical to success will be ensuring parents have confidence in the quality of childcare on offer to their children.

“This is something increasingly challenging to secure, given proposals to increase ratios, remove local authority support for providers and establish childminder agencies," she added.

4Children has been awarded more than £750,00 of DfE funding from the voluntary and community sector grant programme to deliver the project over two years.

4Children will deliver the hubs with project partners including, the Innovation Trust, the Office for Public Management and charity Contact a Family.

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