This immense financial strain can lead to parents (mainly mothers) feeling like they might as well not go back to work after parental leave since the money they would earn would be voided by childcare costs.
In the UK parents can often spend up to 20% of their income on childcare.
Various social trends have made it so that parents often don’t have many people to count on for help with childcare. For example, it is more common today to live away from your extended families, which traditionally helped with childcare. Moreover, in urban environments many people do not know their neighbours and do not have decades long relationships in their immediate community that they can call on.
How might we create a childcare model that uses a cooperative structure and the sharing economy in order to reduce costs and provide support?
Care Club is a service trying to make the option to go back to work more tenable by using a cooperative model to lower childcare costs.
Childcare Bank - At the heart of the service is the creation of a mini childcare economy which runs on “care credits”. Care credits can be earned by various means such as donating time to assist with collective childminding or donating outgrown baby clothes. Care credits can then be used to obtain help with your childcare needs.
Flexibility - Interviewed parents put a great emphasis on the lack of flexibility available with most childcare services which makes them far less helpful than hoped for.
Mix of Professionals and Parents - In order to reduce costs parents volunteer their time assisting childcare professionals, meanwhile earning credit. All parents are screened with DBS checks and helpful background such as educational experience or CPR training is taken into account.
Space Provision - A safe space for babies and toddlers is crucial. Care Club finds spaces that meet this requirement and logs their availability.
Meet-ups for Trust Building - When it comes to childcare, trust is of course of the utmost importance. Parents will not leave their children in the care of people they don’t trust. In order to develop trust parents that are new to Care Club would need to first earn enough credits to acquire care. This means that they will first have to put in hours assisting the professional childminder. During this time they can get to know the people involved and become more comfortable with them. This has the added value of making the transition also easier for the child, as it is not left alone in an unfamiliar place on day one, but is in the beginning always accompanied by its parent.
Supply and Demand Algorithm - The sharing economy’s greatest strength is the logistical and technological ability to regulate supply and demand for increased efficiency. The urban environment is full of demand for childcare, as well as a supply of parents who have time and are in need of company with other adults, and especially with other parents. Keeping track of these two sets of data and matching the supply with the need has the potential to free up time, cut costs, and strengthen social bonds.
Care Club relies on the belief that the extensive online repositories of free mutual support and advice for parents that are to be found in “mommy blogs” and forums like “mumsnet” signify a widespread willingness for mutual aid. The introduction of “Care Credits” into this social space is a way of encouraging this reciprocity. The credits perform as a middle ground - something between paying people for help that with stronger social bonds would be had for free, and imposing on the people around you with the continous expectation of favours.
With Chris Jeffries and Boyoung Lee.