4Children funded hubs versus non funded childminder agencies   2 comments

I read this article http://www.cypnow.co.uk/cyp/news/1077207/4children-unveils-plans-community-childcare-hubs about the government funding to 4children to set up community childcare hubs when it came out on 14th May, and was confused.

My confusion stems from the fact that these community childcare hubs seem to have many of the aims of the proposed childminder agencies – and yet while childminder agencies are reportedly to be self financing with no government funding at all, 4children have been given  £750,000 of funding over 2 years to develop the hub model in several pilot areas.

The article explains that the idea behind hubs is different to the idea behind childminder agencies – and indeed it is , BUT there are areas of overlap, and it is these overlaps in the aims that is going to add yet another layer of choice and even more confusion for childminders and parents.

Details are limited at the moment and so may explore this subject a bit more later when detail is known – but for now going to use the information from the article above and the this article published in Nursery World on 20th May http://www.nurseryworld.co.uk/article/1182708/childcare-hubs-government-funding

The first similarity is where both hubs and agencies will operate from, anyone can set up a childminder agency but it is suggested that Children’s centres, schools, nurseries, childminding networks would all be viable options

While the places chosen for the pilot hubs are according to the Nursery World article;  an academy with a private provider; a free school with a voluntary provider; a private provider; a children’s centre; and a nursery class and Reception class.

4Children have stressed that providers will have to want to be part of the hubs, but childminders will have to also want to be part of agencies – so another similarity.

The aim  of hubs will be to put structures and processes in place to develop a financially sustainable childcare offer, with different providers working together, but so will agencies as it is mentioned that childminders might provide wrap around care to the nursery, school or children centre that is running the agency. Both agencies and hubs will support parents to find childcare that meets their needs. So another similarity.

Hubs will have a leader (in the pilots employed by 4 Children), each agency will have a leader employed by whoever is running the agency. So another similarity.

Agencies will support the childminders with sharing good practice and training – as will the hubs .  So another similarity.

Of course there are many differences – mainly that agencies will be just for childminders to join (based on information supplied so far) and agencies will be able to register and inspect childminders, where as (again on information supplied so far) hubs won’t.

The other is difference is that those working with hubs will be able to do so for FREE where as with agencies childminders will either have to pay a fee or a % of income, or be employed (and therefore paying in other ways such as a lower pay, or longer hours )

It is not clear if funding will be available for hubs after the piloting period though 4Children, nor is it clear if agencies will use the hub model being piloted in future, if it proves to be successful, or if agencies will be ‘superseded’ by hubs or vice versa .

However what is very clear is that childminders will have to make decisions about if they want to join an agency, if they want to remain independently registered and inspected by Ofsted – and if they do remain independent if they want to be part of a hub.

Mind you it is not yet been said if an agency childminder with an ‘outstanding’ agency based grade (therefore the agency grade not their own individual grade) will be able to be part of a hub as well as an agency. More detail on this clearly needed.

For parents the choice of where to go to for help and support in finding childcare is going to be in plentiful supply but I think very confusing and difficult to work out the best option for them.

Finally;

–      if childminder agencies are such a good idea (in the governments eyes) why have they commissioned these pilots for hubs – rather than just enabling all providers who want to join an agency

–      Why have the government not either provided pilot funding for agencies or not provided pilot funding for hubs – as this seems to be unfair and gives hubs an edge as their start up costs are covered where as agencies have to self fund – and pass those costs o to their future childminder / parents clients.

 

I am also confused with the time scales – the pilot hubs are to start end of May13 and run for 2 years, whereas the childminder agencies pilots are to start in Sept 13, be evaluated in Spring 14 and (if successful) rolled out from Sept 14 – so how does this all fit together?

And are not hubs very similar in some aspects to the NDNA pilots as below?

Integrated wrap-around care – 12 trials bringing together day nurseries, childminders, schools and Academies

So yet more choice, yet more confusion – yet more unfair funding for pilots of very similar ideas.

There are other issues connected to the recently announced government funding that I think causes confusion and is not very ‘joined up’ thinking  – and I shall focus on this in a future blog.

2 responses to “4Children funded hubs versus non funded childminder agencies

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  1. Very thoughtful blog Penny, once again. Just to play devil’s advocate for a moment. Would the idea of hubs, based on children’s centres as a community focus, as proposed, be seen as a positive move, if the idea of childminder agencies had never been dreamt up by the government (and if the agency idea and its connotations could be blanked from memory!)? I have no real thoughts of my own on this, at present, but I thought the question might stimulate good discussion. Obviously, there are many ifs and buts, and many grey areas at the moment.

    • Good question Neil, I have a childminding friend here at the moment – so we have debated this question.

      Our response is YES from our point of view we would think hubs a good idea as we would like to work in partnership with others – however when Children’s Centers first opened childminders were supposed to be very much part of the community (I know because at the time that was part of my role with the LA) but it didn’t happen in most Children’s Centers – or started but was then gradual reduced or removed.

      If the agency idea was to be scrapped childminders might consider being part of hubs – but at the moment I think most childminders are confused and angry, and actually do not have the ‘brain space’ to even think about anything other than their own survival.

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