Agents and homeworkers are being sought to become "community leads" to help the country emerge from its coronavirus lockdown, when appropriate.
New not-for-profit charity Childcare Connect, co-founded by TAG’s Ruth Hilton, believes the trade could help NHS workers and keyworkers with childcare, and fulfil other vital community roles.
Hilton said the scheme would "modernise" childcare, and re-establish it as a community service, helping to rebuild vital relationships and trust between neighbours.
"Unfortunately, our busy lives have seen this network break down," said Hilton. "Childcare Connect wants to recruit ’community leads’ to act as catalysts to establish a network of childcarers in their local area.
"Homeworkers and travel agents already have a strong network of local contacts and are perfectly positioned to mobilise a local army of ’parents’ to help us provide free childcare as a practical way of giving back to NHS and keyworkers.
"We obviously realise we cannot deliver this service until lockdown is eased, but setting up a network of this nature takes time so we want to get it in place now ready to go."
Participants will be asked to give 20% of their free time, with Childcare Connect paying for other hours with funds from its "don’t just clap, give back" fundraising activities, encouraging people to not just turn out at 8pm on Thursdays to clap for the NHS and care staff, but to also engage in fundraising.
The initiative’s other co-founder is Jane Williams, formerly of Mytravel.
Childcare Connect will serve as both a community childcare and virtual education service for keyworkers, and other parents when they eventually return to work once social distancing measures are lifted.
According to the charity, an estimated 25% of NHS hours are lost as a result of childcare restrictions. "As we slowly emerge from lockdown, it [Childcare Connect] will be vital for getting the rest of the country back to work," said the charity.
All those who register will be required to submit or apply for a DBS (disclosure and barring service) check, while the charity will also enact a "social qualifying" programme; registering carers will be asked to share recommendations via the Childcare Connect Facebook page from peers, family members and children they have looked after previously.
Video will be encouraged for interviews and monitoring, and should government introduce Covid-19 certification for those who have had the infection and will likely have some degree of immunity, the charity’s database will reflect this. It is encouraging the government to prioritise antibody testing to achieve this.
"Childcarers are the ‘hidden’ keyworkers, and over the coming months, will play a more crucial role than ever before," Hilton added.
Childcare Connect is also seeking sixth-formers and university students to deliver assisted learning and video-based education resources to aid home schooling. The charity will be able to assist with video conferencing tools to achieve this.
It is initially aiming to raise £10,000 via crowdfunding to help develop a carer database. Anyone wishing to sign up as a community leader, carer, or parent, should visit childcareconnect.co.uk or facebook.com/childcareconnect.co.uk.