The transactional nature of modern day childcare has meant that parents are seen as consumers, as passive beneficiaries and in the eyes of government have been defined entirely by their needs. Those needs have become the only asset they have. Childcare has become cheap and low quality as a perceived solution to parental employment.
Parent Cooperatives hold real potential for those wanting flexible, affordable and autonomous childcare. Parent co-operatives cost considerably less to run than standard nurseries, through engaging the parents alongside professionals in the delivery of childcare.
Childcare is a service based on trust and relationships and co-produced childcare rejects that money and market price is the sole acceptable measure of value, it values what it means to be truly human and to contribute to each other as humans. The value of money is replaced with the value of lived experience. Co-production involves reclaiming the commodification of care by the monetary economy and replacing it with a type of compassion economy – it proposes that we must value care work as we do knowledge work.
The point is not to consult more, or involve parents more in decisions; it is to encourage them to use the human skills and experience they have to help deliver childcare services. This is a challenge to the way professionals are expected to work and to policy-makers who are setting targets as indicators of success. What if parental involvement in curriculum design became intrinsic metrics in gaining an outstanding Ofsted report?
New Economics Foundation have produced a provocation piece written by Sophia Parker, Hannah Lownsbroug and Lucie Stephens that explores the idea further and gives examples of cooperative childcare programmes here in the UK.
The flexibility of the approach offers a myriad of different methods with ever expanding levels of commitment and organisation. From freelance collaboratives, to employer-based parent co-ops, summer holiday schemes to highly organised preschools with hundreds of participating families.
Childcare cooperatives value the experience of childcare professionals and this is reflected in the wages. They promote safe, healthy working conditions, enable transparency, and empower communities to build strong, thriving businesses.
So to move away from transactional childcare and in becoming a country where cooperative childcare is a valid alternative to other forms of childcare we need to:
· Increase awareness of this new model
· Assemble a movement of actors and credible partners
· Create an open dialogue about potential risks and safe guarding issues
· Give people the chance to test the idea & be involved
· Unite the broader childcare industry