Major boost for childcare co-operative

A NORTHAMPTON-based co-operative enterprise agency has received a major
boost towards achieving its aim of becoming the centre of an international
childcare network.

A £ 135,000 grant from Co-operative Action – which promotes the development
of new co-operative enterprises – will support Enterprise Solutions
Northamptonshire in building a national co-operative childcare network over
the next three years.

Project manager and co-ordinator Margaret Lucas plans to create a central source of expert support for childcare co-operatives throughout the UK and overseas – as far away as the USA and Canada.

It will offer guidance with publicity, marketing and training as well as assembling a database that brings individual groups together to share skills, knowledge and experience.

With more than 15 years experience in co-operative childcare, Margaret is
one of the UK sector's leading specialists. She helped found the National
Co-operative Childcare Network and is the chair of the Co-operatives UK New
Ventures Childcare group.

With Co-operative Action funding her full-time employment, Enterprise Solutions, of Kettering Road, Northampton, will encourage the growth of OFSTED-registered out-of-school clubs for children up to 14 and special needs children up to 16 years old.

That includes breakfast and holiday
groups, childminding, crèche facilities and pre-school playgroups offering
part-time nursery education and full-time daycare.

Childcare co-operatives – which began in Chicago in 1916 – `offer more than
quality childcare at an affordable price and the chance for parents to return to work,` says Margaret.

`They are a different and special community service that provides a healthier balance of work and family life. Parents and helpers can be involved in their own sustainable and democratically managed operation and
share a role in their children's first school experience.

`The network is very much about linking together individuals, existing and
emerging groups, co-operative development agencies and local authorities who
have a common interest in co-operative childcare and social enterprise.
Through this, people can learn from one another and share ideas with the
confidence that they are not working alone.`

The Co-operative Action grant means that Margaret is able to dedicate 100% of her time to develop the network and offer a full support service.

`The childcare industry has grown rapidly in the last five years,` says Jo Bird of Co-operative Action, `but there is still only one registered childcare place for every seven children under eight and British parents are
paying the highest childcare bills in Europe.

`We hope that Enterprise Solutions will bring something new to the whole sector and help promote a greater awareness of co-operative values and principles.`

Co-operative Action promotes the development of co-operative, mutual and
social enterprise solutions. Since the fund was established in 2002, grants
and loans of between £ 5,000 and £ 50,000 have been awarded to co-operative
projects from energy and agriculture to retailing and childcare.

Co-operative Action is funded by the Co-operative Group, Chelmsford Star
Co-op, Lincoln Co-op, Oxford, Swindon and Gloucester Co-op, Raunds Society, United Co-op, West Midlands Society, the Co-operative Bank and Co-operative Insurance Society.

For further information about Co-operative Action visit www.co-operativeaction.coop

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