After struggling to reach families across the city, Liverpool City Council decided to use an alternative method to encourage parents to take up free childcare places – a carefully developed, intensive programme run by Outreach Solutions. The company, previously called Digital Outreach and Convey, delivers engagement for communications and behaviour-change campaigns through the voluntary and community sector. So far, they have had considerable success in Liverpool, with participation jumping by 17% in six weeks. Now the team at Outreach Solutions hopes that factors behind the scheme’s success, such as the way it uses tailored approaches to reflect parents’ different circumstances, will help to boost the take up in other areas and raise awareness of the value of early years learning and support.
Liverpool has around 3,000 free childcare places for two year olds as part of a national programme which aims to help low-income families. Despite a year-long push by the council to increase numbers, by June 2015 over 1,100 places had still not been taken up. Outreach Solutions was brought in to run a campaign in two deprived areas of the city where take up was particularly low, to ensure more eligible children can benefit from early education.
During the course of the programme there were 378 one-to-one conversations, 75 local businesses and community venues were engaged, there were briefings at 13 end user events, and information on free childcare places was distributed across 122 community venues. The initiative successfully helped an additional 187 two year olds into childcare and early years learning places during the six-week programme.
Key to this success was how the programme was able to engage communities and nurture local champions to become advocates for early learning; a wide range of activities in many different settings, from local shops to children’s centres, were used to get the message across. As a result, across the target areas of Clubmoor and Norris Green to the north of Liverpool, and Knotty Ash and Yewtree in the east of the city, the number of eligible children taking up the free places rose from 56% to 73%, which is continuing to rise. All of these children will now receive 15 hours of childcare per week which will enhance their learning and development.
Outreach Solutions has also produced a report based on the results of this programme, designed to help future campaigns to segment their audience and tailor their approaches. This report shows how the programme reflects the different circumstances of mothers, such as teenagers living at home, those who are single and unemployed, those with full time jobs, and mums with special educational needs. This can help local authorities to develop targeted initiatives, aimed at improving the take up of free childcare.
The outreach programme formed part of an overall city-wide strategy by Liverpool City Council to boost the take up of free childcare places for two year olds. Combined with other activities, it has played a part in boosting participation across the city, marking a significant improvement in the Council’s ranking amongst local authorities in terms of the take up of free childcare places.
Jan Gallagher, Service Manager of Early Help at Liverpool City Council, said that the new programme is definitely impacting positively on the take up of free childcare places, especially for the 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”, she explained. “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.”
For more information and to view their report on the take up of childcare places, visit the Outreach Solutions website: www.outreachsolutions.org.uk.