Scottish childcare charity creates revolutionary, easy to navigate, childcare management software to support children, families, and the sector.
Flexible Childcare Services Scotland (FCSS), a national charity who already manage settings across Aberdeenshire, the Highlands and Islands, Moray and in Dundee, was created after it was found that parents were unable to accept offers of employment due to a lack of high quality, flexible, and accessible childcare services.
As well as offering a flexible childcare model in its own settings, the charity wanted to empower other providers to do the same. Over the last 18 months they have created and developed Caerus, a unique suite of software products aimed specifically at childcare providers.
Caerus goes beyond the traditional nursery management software solutions currently on the market. Childcare providers can manage their staff more efficiently, upload data to existing finance systems and manage occupancy levels – however it also comes with intuitive desktop and mobile applications that show live sessions and rotas, and has the functionality to check children in and out in real time.
The insights section gives users a better understanding of their own performance and provides access to invaluable customer data including how many parents are viewing their service and the requirements for childcare within their local authority.
Beyond the actual childcare management features Caerus offers something incredibly unique, but to help you understand how the system has evolved, let us go back to a time before COVID.
FCSS was created to challenge the inflexibility of the current childcare provision in Scotland and their core mission remains – to facilitate high quality, accessible and flexible childcare across Scotland.
Our services already offer flexible childcare, allowing parents to book day care by the hour, only paying for the time they book. They aren’t subject to any up-front costs, deposits, or holiday retainers.
According to one parent:
“We’ve been using the Day Care service for a while now. I work shifts and finding a nursery that fitted with my work pattern was really difficult. Thanks to FCSS I can book different times each week as soon as my rota is out. It’s convenient, it saves me money and my son loves it!”
FCSS could see that their flexible model worked and they wanted to help other providers to offer the same type of service. They realised that a fully flexible service wouldn’t suit every childcare provider, however, with research showing that private and third sector nurseries run at an average of just 75% occupancy, FCSS felt that providers could release the remaining 25% as flexible spaces, filling their capacity as well as increasing their revenue.
Now they have identified the desire from parents to book shorter sessions that fit in with their schedule, they can focus on helping providers fit this demand it into their existing unused capacity.
The concept of Caerus was born, and it was developed with funding from the Social Innovation Partnership, a collaboration between the Scottish Government and venture philanthropy, The Hunter Foundation.
The charity launched the software in February 2020, and boom, lockdown was announced a mere month later.
As we all know lockdown had a significantly negative affect on childcare providers; nurseries were closing and those that were open were only available to key worker parents. Some key worker parents were unable to use their normal setting and were finding it hard to find alternatives.
FCSS could see the frustrations shared by parents and providers alike, and added extra functionality to the software that would allow providers to advertise their available spaces and for parents to find spaces that met their needs.
By July 2020 more than 300 key worker parents had registered to the search and find system, and almost 400 children were receiving care in new settings.
However, nursery closures caused by the coronavirus pandemic had led to a significant staffing issue within the sector, something that was already an issue prior to Covid and was now at a crisis level.
Susan McGhee, Chief Executive Officer at FCSS, said:
“The sector has been suffering workforce shortages for some time which was exacerbated by Covid and the increase in funded early learning and childcare hours. In response to this workforce capacity issue we created Scotland’s first national sessional childcare team, a supply bank for early learning and childcare workers, to address the issue.”
FCSS follow the Care Inspectorate safer recruitment guidelines and all workers on the system are experienced and fully PVG checked. This is now an integral part of the Caerus system and not only is it helping childcare providers to find new practitioners, but it’s also helping childcare workers who left the industry to return to work.
Thanks to training accreditation from the Scottish Qualifications Authority, FCSS is now approved to deliver Social Services (Children & Young People) at SCQF Levels 6 and 7 which will fill the current skills gap in the childcare sector.
As the Westminster and Scottish Government lift restrictions and life returns to some semblance of normality, what else is in store for the Caerus system?
According to Alison Findlater, Software Development Manager at FCSS:
“We are constantly developing the system, working with both parents and providers to ensure it evolves with the sector’s needs. Our next system update will include new learning journal functionality on the Parent’s App; this will give greater transparency to children’s developments and their key milestones. We are also developing the system to make it more suitable for childminders, and for services that work with children with additional support needs. Our ambition is to make Caerus the best childcare management system on the market – to achieve that we will continue to work alongside the organisations and individuals who are using it.”
For more information on Caerus visit www.caerus.scot