The highlights of my past few weeks (are you allowed to have highlights in a pandemic?) have been the heartwarming messages of support I’ve received in my inbox from our paying customers.
Take Julie, owner of Southlands Nurseries:
“I signed up to Famly with a little apprehension about being too technological with communication,” she told me. “I wanted to say that it has already been invaluable as a source of secure communication between our settings and parents. I truly do not know what we would have done without it.”
I’m proud we can help bring everyone a little closer right now. . But I know not all providers are lucky enough to have something set up to handle remote communication and learning in the strange and unprecedented situation we’re now in.
We started Famly because we knew that childcare providers deserved simple-to-use, efficient software that put all their tools in one place. Yet now, in these times where maintaining relationships digitally matters more than ever, every single family is having to get set up on multiple platforms, none of which were purpose built, and many of which came with a wider host of privacy concerns too.
That’s when we realised it wasn’t enough to just provide this kind of support for the thousands of providers that already use Famly. We realised it was time to set up something new, free, and accessible for everyone.
We realised it was time for a new package. We call it Famly Together.
What is Famly Together?
Famly Together is based on our existing platform, and comes with many of our most popular features, like the news feed, learning journals, child profiles, and daily logs. But it also comes with a number of features we’ve developed especially for these times. The core idea is to help you run your nursery remotely.
Here’s what I think are Famly Together’s three most important tools:
1. The News Feed – Practitioners can securely share activities, updates, photos and video, while parents can comment and send parent observations back. Already, there has been a 488% increase in parent observations amongst Famly users since the crisis began – helping to keep those relationships alive.
2. Famly Live – A brand new, live video stream option that allows children to see the faces of friends they haven’t seen in well over a month. Secure video conferencing allows nurseries to lead remote sessions, or just check in. There’s no more need to set up external software – live video can be started in the app itself, and hosts up to 50 participants.
3. The Activity Library – Here, practitioners can explore a collection of over 100 free creative activities for children. Users can submit their own, explore and rate others’ submissions, and build their own personal library. Then, they can share activities directly to parents’ news feeds — with 1,332 activities shared since its launch at the beginning of April.
Why are we launching Famly Together now?
Beyond the critical childcare so many of you are providing in order to keep the nation’s emergency services running, we can see that two things matter to providers right now.
Maintaining close ties with your community, and staying financially sound.
I hope Famly Together can help providers across the UK with both.
1. To keep providers close to their families
Outside of a child’s parents, you’ll know as well as me that early years staff are some of the most important figures in little ones’ lives.
We know that losing regular contact with these caregivers can be deeply upsetting for children. I hope that maintaining contact through Famly Together’s video calls, and messaging reassures children that their friends are still there, and all will be well.
Many parents are trying to juggle remote work, childcare, home schooling, and bad haircuts for the very first time. By using our activity library to upload, find, and share activities, you’ll also be able to provide parents some much needed support and inspiration too.
2. Easing the financial strain
Even before the coronavirus, I know many of you were at breaking point from a combination of rising costs and years of insufficient funding.
I think Famly Together can help give you the opportunity to maintain a vital stream of income while your doors are closed to so many of your families.
We’re seeing just 21% of the usual income raised on invoices for our thousands of customers right now. And that’s absolutely fine for those settings who are able to make the combination of government schemes work for them. If that’s you, I still hope Famly Together can help you provide for your community, without having to incur the extra cost of a software license.
But just like all businesses, early years providers deserve to stay connected with their customers – their families – and have the option of providing them with a remote service they’re comfortable charging for in order to make up their lost earnings.
That might be providing activities for parents, running digital storytime on Famly Live, checking in with children, or simply being there to support and advise parents. Whatever it is, I hope it can help give you some tools that will ensure your financial security through this crisis and beyond.
But, is it really free?
I know some of you might be wondering where the catch in all this is.
The thing is, we’ve been offering a free package to the sector for some time now, but with some storage limits and limited features, meaning it really worked best for smaller settings and childminders.
With the launch of Famly Together we’ve decided to remove storage limits on all of our packages during these times and onwards. If people want to upgrade, we want them to do it for the new features and value they see in it.
We’ll never sell your data, and our system is GDPR-approved and secure. You can see here for yourself in our security policy.
Yes we’re a business, and we hope that you like Famly and consider expanding to one of our paid packages once this is all over, allowing you to invoice, collect fees, manage your rooms, and more. But for now, we’re just happy to do our bit – because you’re sure as hell doing yours.
A thank you to our customers
I also want to thank all of our customers who are still supporting us right now. Every feature that comes to Famly Together will of course be available in your platform too. You’ll also get even more planning and financial features that we’re bringing out right now to help you weather this lockdown, and prepare for life on the other side.
But I also want our customers to know they’re making a difference to us too. You’re allowing us to continue supporting the sector, with initiatives like Famly Together, The Corona Hub, and our free Famly Sessions conferences that we’re running to get you the answers you need.
And finally, a thank you to all of you working in the early years right now. Thank you for doing your best by your families, your teams, and the big people of tomorrow that you continue to support, in good times and bad. I’m just proud that Famly and Famly Together can play a small role in that too.