Are We Starting To Be Listened To?   2 comments

On March 1st 2013 two separate bits of information were sent to me

First was information from Beth Thomas telling me about when she and her colleagues had met with their MP Tim Loughton, (MP for East Worthing and Shoreham and also ex-minister for children and families) about their concerns about the proposals in More Great Childcare. Beth has written some excellent feedback which can be found on her blog by clicking on the link.

The thing that struck me most from this feedback was that although it appears that Elizabeth Truss is not listening – the government is – and more importantly the more members of the public that express concerns the greater the impact as IT IS NOT Ms.Truss who will have the final say.

Beth’s blog gives the link to the page that explains how you can have you say directly to the government, and some good tips on how to have the most impact.

Link to Beth’s Blog

The second piece of information came via a personal message on social media, from a childminder called Tara – who like a lot of people is becoming more and more concerned at the lack of communication about her own and others concerns – and the lack of detail about what will be – if implemented – major changes for the early years sector.

So Tara decided to phone the DfE and refused to be signposted elsewhere and kept going through the DfE system until she got to speak to someone who seemed to know what they were talking about.

The person was a lady called Jane – that as it happens I have actually met when the DfE visited my setting last year – so I was able to confirm with Tara that yes – Jane does know what she is talking about.

I am going to take the points that Tara discussed with Jane and then add my own personal comment.

 

Jane told Tara about agencies                                                                                                                       There will be no business model for agencies – they can set up as they wish – therefore no continuity

Penny’s Comment                                                                                                                                                      This confirms everything that I have read and been told – so far. A completely free market, therefore what each agency offers and provides fin the way of services to parents and childminders will be different – as will requirements and fees.

I find this very worrying and would hope that if agencies are implemented that there would at least be ‘boundaries’ or a code of practice to govern what is acceptable and what is not.

Just to take one small aspect that agencies may provide – training.

Cost of training                                                                                                                                                       Completely free training?  A token fee?  A realistic fee to cover the costs?  A fee designed to make a profit on the training?

Amount of training                                                                                                                                                Once a year?  Once a month? As deemed needed by the agency? Only if financially viable? (In other words won’t run unless at least covers costs) Led by need of agency childminders?

Quality of training                                                                                                                                                              In house by AN Other person with no specific knowledge – so just presenting set information? A person qualified in that specific area of knowledge? A ‘In house’ certificate? A nationally recognised certificate? No certificate? Handouts? No handouts?

It is easy to see how much could vary between agencies on just this one issue – and if you look at all services that might be provided by agencies –  it is not difficult to work out that it  is going to be a minefield

Jane told Tara about Agencies                                                                                                                          Agencies will be self sufficient – anyone setting up will have to work out if there is an interest or need in that area

Penny’s Comment As I thought – although many are still under the impression that some of the money save from other funding streams (Ofsted / LA’s) will be used for setting up and running agencies – this makes it clear that whoever set up an agency will have to fund it and therefore will be setting fees at a level to ensure they make a profit – including getting back their set up costs.

I am also not convinced that ‘market forces’ will ensure that agencies are only set up where there is a demand / need – as this has not happened in the past in relation to childcare provision, supermarkets, or charity shops – in my experience often a case of none or too many.

Jane told Tara about agencies                                                                                                                              It cannot become mandatory for everyone to join an agency as there is simply insufficient time within this government

Penny’s Comment                                                                                                                                                           Very worrying – does this mean that in the next parliament / government – there will be time? And we could all find ourselves with NO choice?

Please note – I don’t know – just asking a question.

Jane told Tara about agencies                                                                                                                                           The pilots will start in Sept 13 and there will be surveys from these to allow agencies to set up from Sept 2014 – the agency will have to register with Ofsted – they need time to publish draft regulations and guidance prior to this

Penny’s Comment                                                                                                                                                            I note the word survey – not consultation. Could be just a bad choice of words but it would appear that the government is set on a course of implementation with very little research, consultation or feedback. I expect the surveys will be with those who decided to join the agencies and because those will be the ones who personally want to be part of agencies (8% of childminders according to various surveys on agencies), this will give a one sided view and not be representative of the majority view. Therefore one could expect the survey results of those who used the pilot agencies to be in favour.

Jane told Tara about agencies                                                                                                                           They cannot guarantee that agencies will even get passed – it would not be known until early 2014 if they are viable

Penny’s Comment                                                                                                                                                 Seems the government are intent on pushing this through – the pilots won’t be up and running until September 2013 – yet they expect to have evaluated by ‘early 2014’ – how can this be possible in such a short space of time?

My only hope it that this could be in our favour (those who oppose agencies) because if only 8% of childminders DO join agencies then it will make it difficult for them to be viable. However I am not sure that the government will use numbers of childminders using them as a criteria for viable – I am sure that evaluation questions / surveys will be structured to give the answers the government would like – ie those using them like them

Jane told Tara about agencies                                                                                                                                   They (the government) dont actually know how the agencies will work themselves and  that they are aware of the backlash and that they may not be viable in a lot of areas

Penny’s Comment                                                                                                                                                                 This is where my hope is based on that the government are listening – they clearly are very aware of the various campaigns and petitions – and although not responding they are taking note. Reading between the lines and being more like my optimistic usual self – I see this as a small step in the right direction – the fact that government don’t know if agencies will work or not.

Jane told Tara about Local Authorities                                                                                                                   LAs can stay – its up to each LA if they continue offering support to childminders – the government will not be telling them to close their departments

Penny’s Comment                                                                                                                                                                   As ex LA staff and someone who still has very good relationships with ex colleagues within my LA and someone who works in close partnership with my LA – this seems a nonsense statement – LA’s have already had to make huge budget cuts and very reluctantly made staff redundant – with more cuts to budget now planed in light of More Great Childcare – with the best will in the world – how are LA’s supposed to cover the costs of supporting childminders – or indeed any other early years setting.?

I have spoken to my LA and asked the tentative question if Worcestershire will be considering setting up their own childminding agency. The response from a senior member of staff was ‘ It is unlikely that we would be able to – due to our main role in commissioning services’  It must be remembered that LA’s have already undergone massive change and do more often than not provide services that they commission from others (such as training) rather than directly providing services – hence the decline in number of direct early years staff in many areas. In all cases these services are paid for via funding grants from the government – and as agencies are to be self funded the LA’s will not be able to apply for funding to commission agencies or provide themselves. Chicken and egg situation really – created by – guess who? Oh yes the government.

Personal Conclusion                                                                                                                                              From the information provided by Beth and Tara – We must continue with our campaign – it would be nice if we could all speak with One Voice – not necessarily through means of same petitions or organisations but by supporting each other and freely sharing information – ideally via the One Voice site – which is an open site for information from anybody and everybody – information just has to be sent in – and it will be added.

It appears the government are listening – we do have MP’s on our side and speaking up for the children of this country.

So even if we get no response or just a ‘party line’ response – we must not give up – because as we have been told – it is the government that decides as a majority  – not Elizabeth Truss on her own.

 

2 responses to “Are We Starting To Be Listened To?

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  1. Pingback: Councils 'failing' over childcare

  2. If one day we are forced to join an “agency” we should all join forces and open up our own childminding co-operative….run by childminders, for childminders, benefiting childminders and their children. I know its not the solution, but if change is inevitable then maybe we can show them how its done for the benefit of all…. then maybe we can become the LA for the nation instead of fragmenting it all…

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