Itch and Scratch Inc.

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At its simplest, Itch and Scratch would connect single or isolated parents in the hope that they can provide trustworthy, reliable and free babysitting for each other. At its most complex, the benefits of these connections are endless. Parents can provide each other with company, emotional support, social connections and improved mental health outcomes, parents can share school and sport runs, help out when children (or parents) are sick and share the cost and logistics of holidays together.

How the this idea will be delivered

Itch and Scratch will acknowledge that it takes time, effort and patience to build the sorts of trusting relationships that would enable parents to support each other in the above ways. For this reason, Itch and Scratch is NOT intended to be a website or on-line forum that is intended to introduce strangers to each other “cold”.

Instead, Itch and Scratch is intended to be a not for profit organisation of members that builds relationships with other members through events, functions and information provision and then encourages members to continue these relationships independently when a level of comfort has been reached. Itch and Scratch also acknowledges that if the organisation is intended to benefit parents it must also have the interests of children at its heart. Itch and Scratch will design all events with children in mind so that parents do not need to access babysitting to attend.

The success of Itch and Scratch will be dependent on the numbers of members it attracts. The more members the organisation has, the more likely it will be that any one member will meet someone (or a number of people) who live in their community and with whom they will feel comfortable sharing support. The 2006 census found that there were approximately 45,000 single parents living in South Australia, which represented 25% of all families with dependent children. More recent figures suggest this number is now closer to 65,000. Anecdotal evidence suggests the number of parents living away from extended family networks is also substantial.

There are many well established methods that can be used to promote the organisation to these parents. In addition to web-based advertising, it is proposed to print postcards or flyers and make them available at Maternal Child Health centres, Family Assistance offices, hospitals and schools and through large employers such as the Defence Force and SAPOL. If there is a cost involved in joining Itch and Scratch, it is intended to be nominal/administrative. Itch and Scratch will then be “user pays” so that members pay a small amount for the events that they attend.

How this idea will create value

Social isolation is a pressing social problem in our community and the social isolation experienced by parents (particularly mothers) is well documented. This social isolation is exacerbated if parents are single or if they do not have access to extended family networks. Single and isolated parents can find it extremely difficult to participate in aspects of life that others take for granted such as meeting friends, going out, playing sport, pursing a hobby or even attending pressing medical appointments or accessing support services. Parents can become “trapped” in their homes if they do not have access to reliable and affordable babysitting services.

Itch and Scratch will match people with a “need” to people with a “have”, however, it is unique in that the people with a need (eg, for babysitting) can be the same people as those with a have (eg, the ability to babysit for others). This is particularly the case for parents who have shared custody arrangements (eg, week-on/week-off). The same parent who desperately needs babysitting on a Tuesday night one week may be in a position to babysit for another on a different night the following week.

These connections will generate social and economic value by allowing single and isolated parents to fully participate in life. These connections will generate social value because they will allow parents to maintain social connectedness to others (including, for couples, their own partner!) increasing mental health outcomes, relationship outcomes and providing a more positive environment in which children can grow and develop. These connections will also generate economic value because they may allow parents to increase their participation in paid employment or reduce their reliance on paid child care services. These connections may also minimise economic loss from sick days resulting from stress or exhaustion.

How this will benefit South Australia

Itch and Scratch will benefit South Australia by reducing social isolation and improving mental health outcomes, relationship outcomes and providing a more positive environment in which children can grow and develop. Itch and Scratch would contribute to a culture of caring for others in our communities, particularly vulnerable members, and looking for ways to share resources to maximise benefits for the community as a whole. Whilst the organisation would need to start small or locally, it has the potential to be rolled out in every city and town in the State. In this way, Itch and Scratch really could help South Australia create caring communities.

Finalist

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Itch and Scratch is an organisation that connects single or isolated parents with others in the same boat so they can help each other be part of life.