Nursery Management: Case Study: 24-Hour Nursery Care

Jordan Chamberlain
Tuesday, March 19, 2013

With many parents now working unconventional hours, nurseries are starting to offer care throughout the night. Jordan Chamberlain reports.

Only 17 per cent of working families with dependent children now work exclusively standard hours, according to the Daycare Trust. Meanwhile, shift working is on the increase. As a result, some nurseries have identified a gap in the market for 24-hour care.

However, extending traditional nursery hours to cover care in the evening and overnight can involve a reassessment of staffing and environment. Children may be particularly anxious about spending the night away from home and parents will be concerned that their child feels settled and secure. Providing a homely space and mirroring the home routine is therefore vital.

There is also the issue of finding staff who are prepared to work nights - when they most likely have their own family commitments - and financing higher rates of pay.

Despite these issues, some nurseries are developing a new model that meets the needs of shift-working parents. One of these is Russell Hill Road Day Nursery in Purley, Croydon, which has offered a 24-hour service six days a week for just under a year now, and is relied on by a number of parents in the local area.

A maximium of 12 children aged up to five years old can stay the night from Monday to Saturday. They sleep in an area that is separate from the daytime rooms, and owner Natalie Salawa is delighted with how her service is progressing.

The parents who mostly rely on her 24-hour services are doctors, nurses and flight attendants. Many living in the area work night shifts at London-based airports - and this has been an important factor in fuelling the development of the service.

According to Ms Salawa, providing a successful 24-hour service requires a reassurance of homely care. 'Parents can feel safe about leaving their children in our environment because our staff are all experienced, registered, and trained to deal with each individual child's needs,' she says.

It costs £53.52 for a child over the age of two to stay overnight in a bed or cot between 7pm and 7am, which Ms Salawa says is not dramatically more expensive than a typical babysitter. Evening and morning meals are also provided for children.

'The children really enjoy themselves here, so we haven't had any major issues or problems,' she says. 'They are comfortable and relaxed because they have already spent time at the nursery during the day before they start staying overnight.'

The nursery has no current plans to provide a service on a Sunday evening, although it is often busy throughout the whole weekend with open days and family workshops.

'A good nursery grows because of word of mouth. As we are relatively young, we are determined to keep up the good work in order for us to grow,' says Ms Salawa.

Home from Home

Maria Botterill, owner of Home from Home in Northampton, plans to begin providing a 24-hour service in September and is undaunted by having to find staff to cover untraditional hours.

'Getting staff to work the nightshift will not be a problem,' she says. 'People will want to work this shift to make their own family situation, where they have children at home, more flexible.'

Ms Botterill sees herself as providing an essential service. 'Who works a nine-to-five day any more?' she asks. 'We want to provide inexpensive childcare for the modern parent.'

Although pricing has not yet been established, Ms Botteril predicts that her 24-hour service will not be any more expensive than daytime care prices. She has recently invested £11,000 on suitable fire emergency procedures.

Like Ms Salawa, she is not worried about children or parents feeling anxious about the overnight stay. 'It will be fun for children, almost like a sleepover,' she says.

'There is a huge demand from doctors, nurses and public-sector workers that we are prepared to meet. We can set the standard for more nurseries to do this in the future.'

As the demands of the recession and modern life push more adults to longer hours and shift work, the need for 24-hour care is likely to continue to rise. Nurseries such as Home from Home and Russell Hill Day Nursery are aspiring to set an example that others can successfully follow.

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