New one stop shop for childcare information   6 comments

Nursery World have reported on Government funding being allocated to set up a one stop shop for childcare information

Link to article

On the face of it this seems a really good idea, as I know from my daughters that trying to find out about available childcare can be a nightmare, and with so many different places to look, so many different formats, it can be time consuming and confusing.

So in principle a good idea

BUT

Having read the article I have several, as yet unanswered questions, and I am hoping that by writing this blog I will raise awareness of my questions and get some answers or further information to help with my understanding of the awarding of this funding.

And maybe others have  some concerns or unanswered questions – If you do please add them in the comment section of this blog.

First I need to make it very clear this blog is not about how the company who has been awarded this funding currently operates or about the services it offers those who currently use the services. Some people love the services offered, some don’t. Some have had bad experiences with this company, some have had very good experiences.

This blog is about the funding that has been awarded, the impact this may have on parents and childcare settings, and on other companies that offer services providing information about childcare …… and most importantly to reflect on if this is good use of government funding.

The article tells us that ‘hundreds’ of people applied for this funding and out of those just one company was selected Childcare.co.uk.

So my first question is  – Why this company?

They already have a successful business which is web based offering free and subscription services to childcare settings and parents. According to their website over a million people are already  members.

So why do they need government money to create something they already have?

Actually the answer to this one  is in the article;  it is to improve the site not to create another site

If these improvements are needed to improve services for parents, why have they not already been made as part of the companies own improvement plans?

I do not personally understand why government funding is needed to improve services for a successful business with so many members.

Will all those existing members be able to gain access to the improvements? And will these current members will be able to access these improved services for free, or if they will be part of the enhanced subscription service .

Will new users of these services be able to access just  the improvements paid for by government funding, or will they be able to access other services for free?

Which brings me nicely to my next section of questions’

I understand that both parents and childcare settings can have a free listing, but it is basic and things like being able to list extended details and to be able to make direct contact depends on one or both parties having paid for the enhanced subscription services.

I do not have an issue with this – this is a business that needs to make a profit, and one of the ways they do this is offer extra services to those who want to pay for them. Fair enough.

BUT

How will this work with the government funding side of things? Surely if money is  provided by government to enable parents to have a one stop shop for finding out details of childcare providers, then all parents should be able to access the information for free and all childcare providers should be able to list their information for free?  I think all should be able to contact each other without paying a subscription fee, and childcare providers should be able to list their website if they have one, again for free.

Maybe there will be some changes made to the contracts with existing members? Maybe those paying a subscription rate will get different services not related to providing information to parents – for example I know that the free training and guides are very popular, so maybe these sort of ‘extras’ will be provided to those who have a subscription package.

As I have said I do not have enough information yet, but I am concern that there will be a conflict of interests between providing services that are to enable parents to have a one stop shop for information about childcare, and current business interests of providing ‘extra’ paid for services.

Hopefully someone will be able to explain how it will all work

I am also questioning if this funding will lead to a one stop shop for parents, because there are quite a lot of other companies that provide information about childcare, some for free, some for a charge and some as part of membership services to various organisations.

Do the government intend that these companies will be put out of business by this one stop shop that has the benefit of government funding? Do they really want just one company having a monopoly on providing this service? Certainly if parents are to know where to look then it would seem that just one company would be better, but that is hardly just or market driven.

Then there is the issue of so many childcare providers having their own websites, and advertising in local publications – in my opinion parents are still going to have to do their own market research.

Add to that people who like me prefer to use word of mouth and  reputation, and don’t want a listing (even if free) on a commercial website, and so not all childcare providers will be in one place – which in turn will prevent any commercial company from becoming a one stop shop which lists everyone.

Then there are parents without access to the internet – how will they find this information?

I have to question why the government has provided this funding – and even though I have noted that the funding awarded is only half the total amount available, it is still a lot of money to give to what is an established business.

I hope that it is just a lack of detail that has led to my concerns and that someone will be able to reassure me that all the things mentioned in this blog have been thought about (and any conflict resolved).

Posted October 22, 2015 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

6 responses to “New one stop shop for childcare information

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  1. I also wondered what to make of this. On reflection it strikes me that, in our area, it is the local authority that provides this service through a link on their website. Perhaps central government is drawing yet more responsibility away from the LAs, reducing further the basis for defending their funding? Just a thought, as it seems to replicate what already exists.

  2. I am concerned with this on face value. I have never paid the company for its services ( why should I when the Government should be providing this information free). Will they make childcare providers pay to use it? If they continue with their current model (I can list free but not get responses/enquiries as I am not a member) then they are actively taking me as a provider out of any potential business. Before any monies are given it is imperative that this service is offered free every year.

    I think its a very lazy way of the government admonishing their responsibilities once again and supporting private (for gain) business with public money.
    They have ploughed money in to the current government listings, which never really worked very well, after taking this away from the local CIS. They messed up a system which worked and are replacing it with private enterprise. We all know how people fair when private enterprise is involved.

  3. I’ve looked into this and it was an innovation competition organised used by Innovate UK which is part of the government’s Small Business Research Innitiative (SBRI). They provide funding to private companies to work with government initiatives. At the end of the day it was a competition with hundreds of entries. Any one of us could have applied to enter if we thought we could have done a better job. Presumably Childcare.co.uk won because they were deemed thl best entry out of hundreds and won it on the merit of their application. I know you mean well Penny but it would appear you are insinuating that this company have done something wrong. I appreciate you have a bitter dislike for them but the fact is that they are the biggest childcare website in the UK and must spend millions in advertising and they are widely liked by many people, although perhaps not your direct personal followers. Their recent TV campaign alone must have surely cost millions. I use them and can do a lot for free and I’ve filled three quarters of my vacancies without having paid them a penny As a free member I can have a free advert and can receive contacts from parents who have paid and can contact parents who have paid before they contact me. Their free online training to paid members is worth over £3500 and they provide lots of other support and resources for childminders, much more than these so called professional associations do You have a grudge against them Penny but be careful about opening yourself up to legal action. I hear they are rather litigious about defending their goodwill and reputation.

    • Thank you for your comment, however I have made it VERY clear that this is not about the company concerned, nor the services provided.

      I have also not said anything against the company, or suggested that they have done anything wrong, my comment is about the allocating of the funding and if good use of tax payers money.

      This blog is not based on any grudge – and the fact that you bring this up speaks volumes to me. You are clearly aware of situations not mentioned or even hinted at in this blog, and so as I have not mentioned them – why did you feel it necessary to do so?

      I stand by what I have said in this blog – there is nothing in this blog for any legal action to be based on- the only people I am questioning is the government

  4. I cannot speak for Penny but from how I read the original article the point was the process and not the company.

    Again Angela you highlight the very nature of why this is wrong, Parents/providers have to pay to access information which should be free. Finding childcare should not cost anyone anything, nor should the government part fund any company that charges for this information.

    They are the market leaders which they have worked hard to be, however unless whomever provides this information does it for free, they should not receive tax payers money.

    I am paying to support this service (through my taxes) yet then have to pay for parents to access it? Double charging.

    Again…. services for finding childcare should be free for everyone.

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