Business Development - Mobile network

A company set up 20 years ago to offer at-home care services for elderly people is now offering a wide range of childcare services. Hannah Crown reports.

Surecare is a private company, providing cradle-to-grave care via a mostly franchise-only model in major towns from Kent to Yorkshire. Childcare is a relatively new offering for the company, which was established in 1994 as a provider of domiciliary care. A squeeze on local authority funding for this type of care, which means providing a variety of support and care services to people in their own homes, has meant the company has had to diversify.

Managing director Gary Farrer, who previously founded Safehands Group, of which Safehands Greenstart nurseries was a part, has broadened the company's offering with childcare, respite care and a broader range of home-based care services, including collecting laundry and shopping. Surecare now has a turnover of £17m.

Leah Winter, children's services business development manager, and formerly a project officer with the National Day Nurseries Association, joined the company in May. Her role is to bolster both its regulated childcare services, such as provision of qualified nursery staff, and unregulated provision. This comprises babysitting, nannying and mobile creche services for up to 150 children, and currently makes up the bulk of its childcare offering.

Ms Winter says six franchisees are now offering both regulated and unregulated childcare services and more will follow. 'We work closely with the local authorities in each of the areas we have a franchise/branch to identify where the greatest needs are and for what services within our remit. Our aim is to fill gaps, meet demands and supply,' she adds.

The company has 27 franchises in total with three company branches.On the company's books are babysitters and mobile creche staff, who are all provided with two days training, and nannies, who generally have a week's training depending on their experience. Some people are employed to deliver all three types of care.

On the regulated side, Surecare also supplies nursery staff to cover staff shortages at settings for a fee, in much the same way a recruitment agency operates. The company is also making a concerted effort to talk to schools about offering preand afterschool provision on school sites. Another drive is to 'plant' nurseries in areas where there is need. The first of these projects is a planned nursery in a Scarborough community hall, which the company plans to rent while using locally-recruited staff. The setting is due to open in October for between 35 and 50 children.

In line with the company's ethos of flexible, tailored care, there are plans to send nursery staff into the homes of about half a dozen families, offering a bespoke one-on-one care service until the nursery opens. 'We want to encourage people to get in touch with whatever they need wherever they need it. Childcare is evolving; increasingly parents need more hours, more flexibility, better options and transferability,' she says.

'Surecare is mobile in the sense that if we need to plant a nursery somewhere because there is need we can do that, and if there is just one mum up the road needing childcare, I can find someone and put them in her home.'

The company will gain another four franchises and another branch before the close of 2014.


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