Chatting with a colleague earlier this week the subject of “extreme childcare” came up. This was a new one for me so I ended up doing some reading and research. With so many parents now working non standard hours, ie not between 9-5 Monday to Friday, and the family network now spread far wider, many parents struggle to find childcare which suits their irregular hours. Extreme childcare is available 24/7 and, I must admit, my initial gut reaction, when it was mentioned was that it was akin to abandoning your child to be raised by a stranger or like putting a dog in kennels. Further reflection however led me to realise how vital this type of flexible care is for many, ordinary, everyday parents who work, for whatever reason, weekends, evenings or nights.
There are a few articles on 24/7 care in the UK and I was interested to see one for a setting in Glasgow written in 2008. Looking at the current setting website however shows that care is available now between 8 and 6. Another article from 2014 described a London setting but noted that the original plans had had to be curtailed as demand had not been as expected. A NetMums post mentions a Nursery in London which used to offer overnight care but discovered there was no demand.
This got me to wondering why, when this seems to be a gap in the childcare market waiting to be filled, are there not more “extreme” services available and why those previously mentioned have not experienced sufficient demand to continue offering the service.
Staffing such a service, I would imagine, would be difficult. “Extreme” hours appear not to be ideal for staff with children or other commitments of their own, so perhaps better suited to younger, unattached staff. Research shows that the long hours (and we’re talking the more conventional long hours of 8-6 nurseries) is one of the causes of high staff turnover which in turn is not conducive to quality service. Continuity of staff provides familiarity and reassurance for children, particularly important for overnight stays.
The cost of such a service is likely also an issue. Many parents working “unsociable” hours may not be highly paid and unable to afford the cost of non standard care presuming non standard hours cost more than standard hours.
There is also perhaps a psychological difference between leaving a child in care through the day and overnight. So, despite all the reports saying that childcare needs to be more available and flexible to suit the various needs of working parents, is there still an emotional tie or a social barrier or stigma that, despite the perceived need, prevents parents from using such extreme or extended hours of care?