Interview - Fiona Jackson, Bar Nursery Committee chair

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Fiona, a fraud specialist at 33 Chancery Lane, who used to chair the Association of Women Barristers, is hoping to set up a nursery for barristers and their staff

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In 2008, the Bar Nursery Association was set up with the goal of opening a nursery in the Inns of Court. What progress has been made?

After plans put forward to open a nursery in the space formerly occupied by the St Clements Cafe in the Middle Temple were rejected in 2010, the Bar Nursery Committee has been looking for possible locations.

As there isn't any suitable space within the Inns of Court, we looked at buying a nearby building and converting it into a nursery to be run by an external provider. However, because this is a costly solution and takes time to do, we contacted Smithfield Nursery, which is less than a mile away from the Inns of Court, and has the capacity and flexibility to provide care for children of barristers, chamber staff and the Bar Council.

What childcare provision will be available to staff through Smithfield House Nursery?

There are plans to provide barristers, chamber staff and Bar Council staff with full-time, part-time and emergency childcare. Smithfield House Nursery opens 7am-7pm.

Nurseries that provide care 8am-5pm don't always work for parents, as barristers within the Inns of Court are self-employed and sometimes have to work long hours.

Emergency childcare at the nursery could assist parents with unexpected difficulties over existing arrangements - for instance, if their nanny is ill, or if they have to be in court in central London at short notice.

We have sent a survey to parents to see how we can best meet their childcare needs.

In time we hope to be able to work with the Bar Council and Inns of Court to offer subsidised places for those with greater financial need.

We are also surveying barristers and their staff nationwide who have children to determine whether a similar initiative would be viable across the country.

What difference will a nursery for Bar staff make?

We are concerned about the increasing number of parents leaving the Bar and want to see if providing childcare affects the issue.

The General Council of the Bar exit survey 2011 showed that 28 per cent of women left because of childcare responsibilities. It also found women were more likely to leave on account of inflexible working arrangements, the pressure of work and desire to spend time with their family.

With more junior barristers leaving, there will be fewer people able to apply to become QCs and judges, which is an issue that will affect the public.

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