I am going to tell you a story about two people who want to be childminders…….. Part One   6 comments


Following on from my blog about the possible scenario of if I join a childminding agency, I am going to tell you a story about two people who want to become childminders in the future.

It has to be a story due to the fact that will happen in the future, but also because at the moment the government have not provided any details about just how childminder agencies will work.


So the characters in my story are Paula and Jo (could just as easily be Paul and Joe – but as most childminders are female, I will use female names)

Paula and Jo happen to live on the same estate as me, an estate which already has a number of established childminding settings.

This blog – part one – will focus on Paula (and of course part two will focus on Jo)


Paula has just had her first baby and does not want to return to her old job, but like most of us needs to earn an income. She has been attending her local children’s centre with her baby and through talking to the staff, Paula knows that help and support is provided to parents who want to become childminders, so Paula expresses her interest in becoming a childminder.

She has no idea that she could become an independently registered childminder, or that there are other options to join other agencies, and thinks that all childminders register through the children’s centre. This is because the children’s centre only promotes their scheme as they need to meet the criteria of the funding received from central government and recruit a certain number of childminders.

Paula thinks the help and support that she receives from the staff is fantastic, she completes an online introductory training session and is helped to fill in all the required forms. What Paula does not know is the staff member supporting her , has never been a childminder and has to refer to the ‘training manual’ provided on her one day in house training session – that was run by the centre manager – who also has not been a childminder, or worked with childminders before.

However this does not matter to Paula because she does not have anything else to compare to, and on completing the registration process, Paula is very happy to fill in the ‘end of training’ evaluation form with lots of positive comments. The centre manager is delighted as evidence of the success of the scheme.

During the registration process Paula has been told that she will be able to join the centre’s Childminding Agency and has a lovely glossy, full colour information leaflet telling her all about the support given by the agency.  Paula is very keen to get up and running – especially as she now needs to tell her old boss if she is returning to her old job or not. So Paula signs the agency agreement as a self employed childminder – she is however a little worried about the agency fee that she will have to pay – and indeed has spent the last bit of her savings on the up front joining fee of £200.  Paula thinks that she should have a child (or two) in her care by the time the first monthly payment of £50 is due.


As it turns out, Paula does get a child – in fact two sisters – sent by the agency, before the first monthly payment is due. However it is not all plain sailing – the agency support staff is not available to come to Paula’s house at same time as the parent to fill in the contract, and the parent is not able to get to the children’s centre – so although Paula has all the forms as supplied by the agency – she doesn’t understand them as there are lots of option boxes, and things that Paula can not explain to parent because she is not sure herself what all those childminding related terms mean.

Unfortunately,  Paula is not aware of the established local childminders, or the local childminders group, or the online based childminding forums and facebook pages – where she could seek support and advice – because she has not been told about them – and to be honest has no idea about childminding in the wider context- just what she has been told on her introductory course by the children centre staff – who refer to the ‘manual’ for their information.

However  because the parent needs childcare straight away, and Paula needs to start earning money – the parent and Paula fill in the forms the best they can.

Paula agrees to collect the younger sister from pre – school at 12noon and care for her all afternoon, and to fetch the older sister from school at 3:15. Parent will collect the children t 6:30 so Paula will provide tea for the children.

When the agency staff member called Debbie, pops round to see Paula in the second week of Paula caring for the children, she congratulates Paula on her first minded children and on managing to fill out the forms – which according to Debbie are ‘fine’

However over a coffee and a chat, Paula suddenly starts to get upset and is near to tears. Debbie is of course supportive and asks what is the problem?

Well ……. Says Paula …. There are lots of things …. I didn’t realise ……

‘Tell me about it’ says Debbie –  confident that it is just ‘new job nerves’

Ok says Paula

‘I have not got any resources suitable for the girls – I only have a few rattles, and textured toys belonging to my baby, and a colouring book and crayons, they end up watching TV a lot’

‘Well you are self employed’ says Debbie – ‘so just buy some’.

‘I can’t afford to’ says Paula

‘Ummmm’ says Debbie –‘ car boot? ‘

‘In November?’ asks Paula and in any case that still costs money – and I have to pay my agency fee next week,  and parents won’t pay me until end of the month.

Debbie member has no idea that childminding fees could be paid in advance  (it is in the training manual but not read that bit) – nor has Paula so she has gone for payment at the end of the month – just like she used to be paid in her old job.

Debbie also has no idea about ‘free’ play resources within the home or community events, or natural resources – and why should she? She does not have children of her own, and is used to a well stocked resource cupboard in the centre. So she gives the best advice that she can ‘Well you could bring the girls to the centre drop in’

‘Not really’ says Paula – ‘you see by the time I have collect one from pre-school, had lunch, baby has nap time, it is time to fetch the older one from school – and baby wants to be fed, then the girls need their tea – and by then the centre is closed’

‘AND’ says Paula-  tea is another problem – the girls don’t like the same things as we have for tea so I am cooking for them and having to cook again for me and my partner after they have gone home, and it costs so much more… and my partner is already complaining that as our baby is teething he has to  walk around comforting baby while I finish my days work, do handover to parents – who sits on our sofa chatting till nearly 7pm, and then by the time I have cooked tea, put baby to bed – all I wont to do is fall asleep on the sofa. Our family life is a mess because even at the weekends I am trying to do my accounts, and keep the children’s records up to date and plan the next week ….

‘Ahh’ says Debbie – grasping the one thing she can help with  ‘We provide help with accounts and planning and children’s records – shall I book you a place on the next workshop?’

‘Oh yes please’ says Paula ‘When is it?’

‘Choice of two’ says the staff member – pleased that she is able to help Paula with some of her problems ‘Wednesday afternoons or Saturday mornings’

‘Oh’ says Paula – I have already told you afternoons are difficult – so it will have to be the Saturday – I can bring baby can’t I?’

‘Afraid not’ says Debbie the agency staff member ‘ You see the centre is closed on Saturday’s and we don’t have staff available to run the crèche – could your partner look after baby or Granny?’

Paula is near to tears again as she realises that no, Granny can’t look after baby as she lives an hours drive each way from her, and her partner can’t either as he is working overtime on Saturday’s to try and cover all the extra costs that Paula is incurring providing things for the children – but has not yet been paid for.

Debbie looks at her watch and realises that although she wishes she could stay and offer more support to Paula – the hour visit is over and she has an appointment with another agency childminder in 15 mins.

‘We will pick this up at the next visit in 6 weeks time she says – and in the meantime do phone in if you need any other support.’

Once alone with her baby, Paula does cry and thinks ‘What a mess, who can help me, – NOW – not in 6 weeks time.

Just then Paula’s phone rings, it is a friend she met at the antenatal classes – and who knows that Paula wanted to become a childminder, asking if Paula can look after her baby of the same age, 3 full days a week.

Paula sighs and says to her friend – I am really sorry that would have been perfect for me, but you will need to go through the agency and see who is available to care for your child, and even if they do give you my name – I am not sure that I would be able to care for two babies and the two girls that I am looking after, but if they say I am the best match for you – then I will have to give it a go, as technically I have a space, and I do need to earn more money’’

*assumption that ratio changes gone ahead*

As it happens Paula’s friend is sent to another new childminder who lives nearer to her and who currently has more vacancies than Paula. It is a relief to Paula as she is already thinking that childminding is not for her, and is still worrying about paying the agency fee each month – as Paula is realising that by the time she has paid for food, some suitable resources for the minded children, she will not have much money left to pay the agency bill.

6 responses to “I am going to tell you a story about two people who want to be childminders…….. Part One

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  1. Very well written scenario and one, I’m afraid, will be all to real 😦
    I was nearly crying for Paula by the end of that

  2. Particularly like the bits about the centre staff not having any experience of what childminding actually involves and the fact they are only interested in meeting the Gov criteria to tick their target boxes lol can’t wait for the next installment!

    • Yes, and not a reflection on the center staff – as I know center staff do their best (my daughter works in a children’s center) but they do not control the targets or set the training that they are given. The government control things with their targets, tick boxes and set budgets.

  3. Very well put, such a scary story but not unbelievable. What to do next though?
    Although I’m not a childminder anymore it’s something I would like the option to go back too, but never with an agancy. How can we parents and minders stop the middle man barging in on a system that already works?

  4. Scary… as the agency staff have no childminding knowledge, which will most likely be the case… and therein lies the problem. Childminders offer unique service, individual to mindee’s families most often.

    I so value the support I receive online from other childminders who have childminding for decades… and even those who have been childminding for less time but are just as passionate about their little business and those in their care. A troubling post Penny.

  5. Yes I too wonder how a childminding agency will work; your scenarios offer a worrying insight!
    The past few years have shown me a view of childminding I never thought possible, with training pathways and network support all of which enabled me to gain my EY Degree. This has provided me with greater knowledge and confidence in my childminding role and I believed this would be the way forward for other childminders too. However, now I too wonder how these new proposals will take us forward, only time will tell.

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