The nursery at the Great Western Hospital in Swindon is offering 30 hours of free childcare a week to parents who work on the site, from hospital porters to consultants, any working varied shifts.
Swindon Borough Council has also launched a partnership with Nationwide to offer 150 childcare places at the Swindon-based head office.
The early years minister met parents, nursery managers and childminders in Swindon taking part in the Early Implementer trial, one of eight local authorities which started offering the 30 hours to parents a year early ahead of the national rollout from September 2017.
Minister for childcare and early years Caroline Dinenage said, ‘I’m thrilled to have seen for myself the support available to hardworking nurses, doctors and hospital staff in Swindon. ‘To know that your child is being cared for nearby by dedicated people really makes such a difference to parents’ peace of mind, especially those working in high-pressure jobs where shift patterns can vary from week to week.
‘Swindon should be congratulated for its innovative links with local organisations such as Great Western Hospital and Nationwide which really are providing a boost for parents. We want this kind of creativity shared with other councils to help them launch the 30 hours offer next September – backed by a record £6 billion government investment.”
Tracy Rundle, manager of the Co-operative Nursery, said, ‘Most of the parents using our nursery work for the NHS Trust, so they are already seeing the benefit of the 30 hours free offer. Those that don’t are really looking forward to being eligible from September 2017 – many are already putting in their applications for places.’
From January nearby Play Den nursery will be offering the free hours on Saturday, providing more flexibility for parents who do not work a typical five-day week.
Oonagh Fitzgerald, Great Western Hospital’s Director of Human Resources, said, ‘Healthcare is a fantastic and rewarding career but not often one that’s nine-to-five, which can make finding childcare difficult. It’s a real privilege to be among the first employers in the country to offer 30 hours of free childcare to our staff, who do amazing work each and every day.
‘We were delighted to host Caroline Dinenage and hope that, by meeting the people benefiting from the scheme, she has been able to get a feel for the positive difference it has made to so many.’