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Liverpool campaign succeeds in raising awareness of free childcare places

More disadvantaged families have taken up free childcare places for their two-year-olds thanks to a new Liverpool City Council outreach programme that could hold lessons for other local authorities.

 The council commissioned social enterprise Outreach Solutions to raise awareness of the scheme after fewer than 2,000 of the 3,129 available places were filled in spring 2015.

 A six-week awareness raising campaign was launched in two pilot areas – Clubmoor/ Norris Green and Knotty Ash/Yew Tree – which led to 187 more children taking up places by September 2015 and an overall increase in take-up in the targeted areas from 17% to 73%.

Jan Gallagher, LCC’s early help services manager, said: “The outreach programme has clearly had a very positive impact on the take-up of free childcare places among some of our hardest to reach families. It demonstrates the value of taking a tailored approach that also engages communities and involves them in championing the importance of early years learning.

“What is particularly encouraging is how Outreach Solution’s innovative way of working has created momentum in such a short space of time. The programme has really energised communities to raise awareness of free childcare for two year olds and this should continue to push up participation rates in those areas in the future.”

The free childcare places are available to two-year-olds if they have special educational needs or an education, health and care plan, or are looked after by the local authority or if their parents receive a range of benefits.

The programme offers a total of 570 hours, or 15 hours each week for 38 weeks, and aims to support children’s early learning and development and give parents who are economically disadvantaged access to childcare.

Outreach Solutions chose the two pilot areas and targeted the postcodes with the highest number of eligible children not in places, for reasons thought to include lack of awareness and lack of motivation from parents.

They worked with Clubmoor Children’s Centre, Yew Tree Children’s Centre and local volunteers to promote the programme at community events and venues by speaking to parents and distributing leaflets and posters.

The organisation also asked trusted voices within the community, such as shopkeepers, hairdressers, health centre staff and nail bar staff, to spread the message about the childcare programme. This was to target parents who may not have access to other means of engagement due to factors such as poor literacy and social isolation.

Caroline England, head of research and evaluation at Outreach Solutions, said: “This project demonstrates the importance of tailoring the way you try to reach a wide range of people from different backgrounds. Traditional approaches often aren’t effective in reaching those who would benefit most from free childcare.

“It’s also vital to recognise that getting key messages across and raising awareness can take time. By truly engaging with communities and identifying those who will proactively share the message it’s possible to have a sustained impact.”


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