When looking at the distribution of poverty in Germany, it can be seen that children have the highest risk of poverty due to an insufficient security of the child's financial situation. In Germany, the percentage of children living in poverty is far higher than the one of adults. According to the German government's poverty report, one in five children in Germany grows up in poverty. In Eastern Germany, it is even every fourth child. With each additional child in a family, the likelihood of being affected by poverty increases disproportionately. This circumstance is only surpassed by single parent status in the family. It can thus be noted that single parents with several children are most affected by poverty. Single parents are mostly female, and this coincides with the situation that most employees in the comparatively low-paid care sector are female. The general labour market-related disadvantages of women in the sense of a gender gap thus collides with family structures, in which it is mostly the woman who takes care of the children on a daily basis after family separation or divorce. This explains the particularly difficult situation of caregivers who are single.
From the potential target group to actual residents - experiences from a UIA-project that combines housing and childcare
From the beginning of the project, the question was whether enough single mothers and childminders would be open to this idea and actually move into a shared house. The aim of this UIA-project is reconciling family and job for the participants. However, this not always easy because it involves single mothers who face different social challenges. This web article tells the story of the target group becoming a resident and getting involved in the home and care project with their children.
The home and care project is very attractive for this target group: a new, centrally located two-bedroom apartment with a built-in kitchen for only € 400 monthly rent and, in addition, childcare in the building that covers weekend and shift work. At first it was expected that there would be many more applicants than apartments, especially if one considers that nearly 20% of all families in Germany with minors are single parents.
Now, when analysing the recruitment of the residents in more detail, one must consider that several factors must come together in order to qualify as a resident for the project. Beyond the "single parent" status, women may only have a maximum of two children because the apartments simply do not offer enough space for more children. Some of the women in the care sector had three or more children and therefore unfortunately couldn’t be considered for the project.
The building was planned and built in a very short time. Unfortunately, the move-in date had to be postponed twice, partly due to the ongoing pandemic and war which resulted in an extreme shortage of building materials. Once the date was postponed by a year, once by two months. During this process, several potential residents dropped out. On the one hand, because their life situation changed during this long period and they no longer had a need for housing and/or childcare. On the other hand, because the postponement caused a certain loss of confidence, which unfortunately could only be offset to a limited extent. Relative poverty forces affected individuals to make life's big and small decisions on a relatively short-term basis. This means that when they have a need for housing, they have it right away, rather than several months down the road (for example, because their current apartment contract has been terminated by their landlord).
Another barrier to recruit residents was certainly the Covid19 pandemic, which was at one of its peaks during the recruitment phase of the project. Meetings with several people could not take place in person for much of the time. However, this would have been very necessary, especially for the housing partners to get to know each other. The project tried as best as possible to create a pleasant atmosphere despite the restrictions. Though coming into contact with (small) children while respecting a distance is of course anything but ideal. learning
It was precisely the fast and fluid matching between the co-housing partners that proved to be a great success factor for the recruitment. Each of the applicants who found a co-housing partner in the process whom they trusted and felt comfortable with finally decided to move in. In order to make it possible to get to know each other despite the restrictions imposed by the COVID19 pandemic, ZAK e.V. organized a children's theatre with weekly plays in which all applicants could participate and at the same time it was possible to maintain the distance requirements.
Unfortunately, one or the housing partnerships had to be dissolved again because one resident decided not to participate in the project after all. This was resolved by quickly introducing another suitable candidate to the remaining party. In addition, an attempt was made not to put pressure on the women within the process to ensure that the decision for or against a housing partner remained free and personal.
The co-housing offer was disseminated widely through various channels: The cooperating care facility informed their staff, flyers were printed and distributed in the Landshut area, social institutions were contacted and informed, online advertising was done in the major social media channels (Facebook, Instagram) and on the websites of all cooperation partners. Nevertheless, at times not enough women applied, especially on the caregiver side. Presumably, they were simply not reached through the channels described. By far the greatest success was achieved by a real estate advertisement on Ebay classifieds, with well over 100 inquiries. Although many of these were not completely suitable for the project, it was eventually possible to allocate all the apartments to suitable single parents.
In the course of the initial talks and getting to know each other, emphasis was put on transparency and commitment. The potential residents were regularly informed about progress and news, but also about setbacks, for example regarding the building progress. As soon as it was possible, viewing appointments were organized so that the women could get an idea of their future apartment. In addition, they were encouraged to meet privately with their intended housing partner, including the children, beyond the organized weekly matching meetings, in order to get to know each other better in non-institutional contexts.
From our point of view, the most important success factor for the acquisition of female residents is the possibility of childcare, which is adapted to the needs of the professions of the shift-working mothers and that directly in the same house or, in the out of normal work hour times, in the apartment. Especially women with young children are very relieved and quickly convinced of the project when they know that their child no longer has to be woken up in the early hours of the morning and taken to their care provider but will be looked after by the childminder next door until the regular facility on the first floor opens.
There are still some adjustments to be made in the UIA project, but it is a pilot project and lessons will be learned from the experience gained.
The knowledge of residents with regard to administrative requirements and processes still need to be improved; for example, more than 50 care hours have been booked or more than two care contracts concluded. The basic course to become a qualified day care worker would probably have to be extended by such aspects or additional training courses should be offered. However, the question arises here as to which institution should provide such an offer: the municipal advisory service or an independent provider? Many of the childminders are accustomed to the comprehensive support provided by the ZAK association, which means that they have been relieved of a lot of "bureaucratic procedures", In addition, too much support in complying with the legal framework and legal reporting requirements to the Office for Child Day Care can be legally interpreted as undermining the self-employed status of the day care workers.
It is apparent that many things would have to be handled by the residents themselves and thus in-house, but there are not yet any established structures for this. So, it is already becoming evident that neighbourly help in the context of childcare is key for the success of the project. However, it is a contradiction in terms of institutionalization of this voluntary service. A central point of contact, as already indicated above, which is responsible for all residents' concerns and should ideally be located on site, would also be a good solution in this context. Initially, their main task would still be to take up the input of the residents and to process it or forward it to the relevant offices. Ultimately, however, the ideal goal should be for the building complex to be an organizational unit managed by the residents themselves, so that the contact point would no longer have to be staffed by external parties.
In principle, large-scale day care can be considered as one of the most flexible variants of childcare. However, the legislator also sets narrow limits on the flexibility of large-scale day care. For example, night-time care is not recognized by the state as a care service and is not remunerated accordingly. The city of Landshut is breaking new ground here with the home and care project: it also pays for night care. Moreover, in Bavaria, there are currently a number of specifications and guidelines that further limit the flexibility of large-scale day care service. One example is the maximum of 50 hours of care, for which the local authorities are subsidized by the Free State through the Bavarian Child Education and Care Act (BayKiBiG) when financing day care. While such a cap makes perfect sense from a pedagogical perspective, it still fails to take into account the actual needs of shift-working caregivers, who are often saddled with additional shifts without being asked by their department heads when care plans are drawn up. On the other hand, the offer of flexible childcare should not be seen by nurses as a possibility to have their child cared for at any time of the day or night, just to meet the wishes of their employers; this is currently still often the case. Another example of the limited flexibility of large-scale day care is the fact that spontaneous care needs that arise in the course of an unforeseen shift change on the part of the caregivers cannot be recorded in the booking systems of the responsible offices at the pace that it is actually necessary.
Another insight to be drawn from the first weeks since the residents moved in is the indispensable need for a functioning conflict management system. From the very beginning, residents complained and generally had a great need to communicate - which is quite understandable in view of the above-mentioned difficulties due to the unfamiliar new environment. However, in order to give residents the feeling that their concerns, worries and needs are being taken seriously, telephone support from the office is not sufficient. For this reason, the project management team has decided to offer a regular, fortnightly consultation appointment on site, which is not obligatory but can be used voluntarily if required. Here, an attempt is made together with the residents to clarify existing concerns and questions and to discuss possible solutions for problematic situations. However, to date there are no suitable premises for these counselling sessions: having them take place in the midst of playing children in the large day care centre is certainly not an option in the long term.