Chelsea and Westminster Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Finalist 2013, The Best for Innovation Award
Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is committed to supporting working parents, through a number of initiatives and policies. However, the Trust has had to be creative and innovative in how they can provide support for a number of reasons. They are based in a very expensive part of London, which brings challenges: housing costs are high so key workers will often have to travel some distance to get to work; and childcare costs locally are high (the Daycare Trust estimates that childcare costs for young children is 25% higher in London than elsewhere). Additionally, space is constrained so there is no facility to provide on-site childcare. The Trust also wanted to be able to support parents beyond nursery years and continue this support as their children got older.
Chelsea and Westminster have put in place solid and practical childcare support: flexible working, childcare vouchers, discounts at local nurseries, comprehensive information and signposting. They have two additional measures. These are their Childcare Subsidy Scheme and their Play Service Partnership.
The Childcare Subsidy Scheme covers all forms of registered childcare – including afterschool and breakfast clubs as well as nurseries and childminders. In this way the Trust can still support parents as their children move from nursery and into school. Staff members receive up to £200 per month childcare subsidy in addition to their salary allowing staff to claim childcare vouchers also. The scheme is available to staff below a certain grade, ensuring that lower income employees benefit, and information is available about the scheme via the intranet and also included in packs for all new mothers and fathers. The Trust has been able to meet all requests to take part in the scheme so far, and currently there are about 20 employees benefitting from it.
The Play Scheme Partnership is a joint venture between the Trust and the Local Authority. The Trust pays the Local Authority to come in before each school holiday and set up registration sessions for parents to claim subsidised holiday playscheme places. The Trust has negotiated a discount for its staff so that places cost £14 per day, per child. In addition, they have worked together to introduce special marketing days which entitle staff to free places for their children at the play scheme.
Both of these initiatives are funded directly by Chelsea and Westminster. Originally funding was provided by the Trust’s charity, but this funding ceased and the decision was taken to find the funds internally to continue this valuable support. Both schemes are an example of lower-cost innovation that can be adapted in other organisations who similarly are unable to afford high cost on-site provision.
The financial benefits to employees are clear to see, but the schemes both have additional positive aspects. For example, the pre-registration session for the play scheme has gradually grown into a regular childcare information session for all parents – with HR staff on hand to advise and the childcare voucher company setting up an information stand. The culture of inclusivity at the play scheme has meant that they have been able to effectively support staff who care for children with disabilities. Staff have expressed appreciation for the ‘helping hand’ that the childcare subsidy has given them.