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Outreach programme increases take up of free childcare places

Article By: Melissa McAlees, News Editor

An innovative outreach programme aimed at encouraging parents to take up free childcare places in Liverpool, has seen dramatic participation over a six week period.

The programme, commissioned by Liverpool City Council and run by social enterprise Outreach Solutions, targeted two deprived areas of the city where take up of free childcare places for two-year-olds was low.

The scheme has seen the number of eligible children taking up free places increase by 17 per cent.

Jan Gallagher, service manager for Early Help at Liverpool City Council, 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."

“We have particularly valued the insight generated through the programme which will be invaluable in helping us to develop our communications approach and tailor our messaging to the right audiences in parts of the city where take-up has been low,” she added.

Liverpool has approximately 3,000 free childcare places as part of a national programme targeted at low-income families. Despite a year-long drive by the council to increase numbers, there were still more than 1,100 places in June 2015 which had not been taken up.

In response, Outreach Solutions ran an intensive, targeted campaign to help ensure more eligible children benefit from early education.

The programme has seen the number of eligible children taking up free childcare places rise from 56 per cent to 73 per cent in the target areas of Clubmoor and Norris Green in North Liverpool and Knotty Ash and Yewtree in the East of the city. The initiative has also helped an additional 187 two-year-olds into childcare and early years learning places.

The children entering free childcare will now receive 15 hours of support per week to help their learning and development.

Combined with other activities, the outreach programme has played a vital part in boosting participation across the city, while there has been a significant improvement in Liverpool County Council’s ranking among local authorities in terms of take up of free childcare places.

As a result, Outreach Solutions has produced a range of case studies designed to help future campaigns to segment their audience and tailor their approaches. They reflect the different circumstances of mothers, such as: those who are single and unemployed, those with full-time jobs and those with Special Educational Needs.

The tailored approaches which reflect parents’ different circumstances are hoped to boost take up in other areas of the city and raise awareness of the value of early years learning and support.

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 pro-actively share the message it’s possible to have a sustained impact.”


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