Help us investigate radical approaches to childcare for creatives

Scottish Book Trust - image by Rachel Hein

We're inviting representatives from the arts, screen and creative industries in Scotland to join us on a fully-funded research trip to Birmingham in April 2019 to explore innovative solutions to flexible childcare. Ashley Smith-Hammond, Creative Industries Officer, explains more...

Childcare can be a challenge!

If you’re a parent or carer in one of Scotland’s 614,000 families with dependent children, you don’t need us to tell you that organising suitable childcare can be (ahem) challenging.

And that’s if you have a two-person, dual income family set up. Challenges multiply for lone parents and freelancers that work unsociable hours or inconsistent schedules. Formal childcare is expensive, it’s usually structured around traditional work days and it demands you pay for constant access – even if you don’t need it constantly.

The research we’ve done here at Creative Scotland (2016’s Understanding Diversity in the Arts and in the screen sector 2017’s Equality Matters) has shown that this challenge is particularly significant for parents and carers in the sector and more acute for women. Artists, makers and other creative types are very often freelancers (41%) and more often than average women (17 percentage points over the population).

Here’s some facts from this research

In the arts:

  • A far higher proportion of women cite gender as a barrier: 44% compared to 12% of men, with one in eight women saying it is a significant barrier (12% vs. 1% of men)
  • Over a quarter of respondents (27%) cited caring responsibilities as a barrier to their career progression
  • Women are more likely to work part-time than men, this reflects the greater proportion of women with sole or primary carer responsibilities

In the screen industries:

  • Gender was cited as a barrier for 39% of women (compared to only 7% of men)
  • A key issue for women was balancing parental responsibilities with a Screen Sector career – women with children were 75% more likely to cite parental responsibilities as a barrier than their male counterparts

And it’s not just our research. You can also find the same story in research from PiPA in their Balancing Act report, in the advocacy work of industry groups like Raising Films and in the reduced profile and bookings for female folk performers in Scotland’s trad music sector.

So far, that just puts official statistics on something many of across the arts and creative industries know intimately and viscerally: the catch 22 of needing childcare for work that’s sometimes 9-5 and is also instead evenings, weekends or overnights because mum or dad have to travel.

OK, so what's the answer?

What’s exciting is that there are some interesting, occasionally inspiring, solutions being trialled.

We want to learn, and we want to help practitioners in Scotland learn, more about these solutions. The goal ultimately is to help catalyse and co-produce local practical solutions that are appropriate for communities (of place and of practice) in Scotland.

Crucially, this is an approach that’s not prescriptive. It’s about learning some of the practicalities – financial, physical spaces, regulations – of how other organisations are making childcare for creatives a core part of their offer. Then using these as models or to spark new ideas for local solutions.

When we started looking at the childcare challenge, we learned about Amy Martin, co-founder of F A M A L A M and an eloquent advocate for better childcare.

Amy put her ideas and her passion into action developing #RadicalChildcare with Birmingham’s ImpactHub. It’s a project to test models and find solutions for alternative flexible childcare options for freelancers and cultural workers. ImpactHub Birmingham is a co-working space “on a mission to help build a fairer, more equal and just city through people, place and open movements” and offers children’s memberships and access to their weekly pop-up crèche for babies to pre-schoolers.

Immy Kaur of ImpactHub told us: ‘It was a real honour to come across Amy, and for her to use the newly formed Hub community as a platform for her vision for the future as an artist and new mum.

"As we started to grow the #RadicalChildcare work and Impact Hub Birmingham’s we quickly realised the many systemic drivers that were creating an inflexible, expensive and often poorly resourced childcare sector and more widely the impact that was having on outcome for children and families and ultimately society.

"It has been a dream to do this work with the breadth and depth of everything from working with children, communities across the country, testing prototypes at our hub and running a multi actor system lab and so much more.

"We are excited to welcome the cohort from Scotland to help share a range of practical insights from our children’s membership, as well the wider #RadicalChildcare work and friends innovating and testing from across the city and country."

The team at F A M A L A M and RadicalChildcare have been publishing learnings along the way. Their websites and blogs are well worth a read.

Plus, ImpactHub aren’t the only folk looking to this question. There’s also MotherHouse, Mothership Projects and V22, to name a few we know about.

What is Creative Scotland doing in response?

We are inviting five people from the arts and creative industries in Scotland to join us on a fully-funded research trip to Birmingham in April.

There we’ll meet with the team at ImpactHub and explore the childcare on offer there. While we’re in Birmingham, our workshop will include participants from other studio and co working spaces, that take a range of approaches to flexible childcare. We’ll be looking for inspiration and to learn from their experience and explore models that could be implemented in Scotland.

The research trip is aimed at those of you who run co-working, studio, rehearsal, workshop or residency spaces. The idea is to start exploring the practicalities of providing childcare as part of your current offer. If that’s an idea that excites you, please apply to join us. Download the details below and email by 9 February 2019 with the requested info.

Radical Childcare research trip - further information

Download more details of the research trip, including how to apply, in PDF format.

We also want to hear from you if you’re doing work in this space or can tell us more about people in Scotland whose experience we can learn from. We’ve been excited to see emerging practice from Moniack Mhor, whose recent short fiction course has a childcare option included.

Please share this opportunity with your networks and invite them to tell us about their work around childcare solutions. The next step after the trip will be a collaborative workshop. It will include everyone who went on the research trip, but it needn’t be limited to this group. What we learn from the application phase, the research trip and the participants will guide the shape of this workshop.

In the meantime, we’ll keep listening and learning.

Image courtesy of Scottish Book Trust - photo by Rachel Hein