Chester to London to meet Lord Storey in the House of Lords – and a story of benefits of working together   15 comments

PLEASE NOTE – THIS BLOG POST IS NOT COPYRIGHTED – IT CAN BE SHARED IN WHOLE OR IN PART AS THE WHOLE PURPOSE OF THE MEETING AND THIS FEEDBACK IS TO WORK TOGETHER TO SHARE INFORMATION AND TO INCREASE KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING ABOUT CHILDMINDING AND CHILDMINDING AGENCIES.

PLEASE DO SHARE – YOU HAVE MY PERMISSION

As one of my daughters said in a text  ‘ The House of Lords, London? What were you doing there?’

A very good question as I NEVER excepted to find myself sat in the House of Lords ‘lounge’ talking to a Peer.

So what was I doing there?

Well ………..

I received a very unexpected message via social media to ask if I could call Lynda de Wolf who is one of the directors of UKCMA – it was unexpected as I am not a member of UKCMA and although I do provide information about UKCMA on the One Voice website in relation to the campaign about More Great Childcare, I don’t really have what you might call a close professional relationship

Then I received a little more information to say that UKCMA may have opportunity to speak to a representative of the House of Lords

Now that did get my attention as I knew the Children and Families Bill – the one that contains details about childminding agencies was about to start its progress of various stages through the House of Lords – as it had just finished doing so through the House of Commons.

So naturally I did phone Lynda – it was late at night because I had training that night straight after I had finished childminding for the day, so it was the first opportunity that I had to phone – and despite it being after 10 pm when I called – Lynda took the call

And that was the start of it – Lynda explained that UKCMA would like me and others to join them at the meeting (if and when it was confirmed). Normally I would not be able to agree to do this sort of thing due to the disruption it causes the parents of the children I look after – however by luck I was going to be on holiday during the week of the proposed trip to London.

(As it turned out the other person that they asked to join them at meeting – Sarah Neville – was unable to go).

So I said ‘Yes, Please, I would love to go’ and as I said it – I got that funny feeling in my tummy and that pain in my back which I know full well means ‘Penny you are taking yourself out of your comfort zone’

Lynda and I then discussed how to publicise the meeting as UKCMA wanted to gather as many views as the could from childminders (all childminders not just UKCMA members) from all over the country – and this was something that I could help with due to my contacts via social media with childminders from all over the country – and of course via my blog.

(and as an aside I was later told by Lynda that they knew when I made the information available as their inbox was full of emails from childminders)

The question we wanted childminders to respond to was ‘ If you don’t want to join an agency – what is it you want instead?’

In the end over 100 childminders responded in the space of a few days direct to UKCMA, plus others left comments on my blog and on the Stop, Listen, Consult petition site link to Stop, Listen, Consult petition

Once the information was available, all that could be done was to wait for the date to be confirmed- and to constantly ‘plug’ the links via social media.

Oh and of course pack for my holiday in Chester area – I say holiday but in fact the whole purpose of my holiday was to dog sit at my daughters house while they are in France.

On the Monday I had a text from Lynda to say that the meeting would most likely be on Wednesday at 10:30 am but was to be confirmed. So I start looking for a bargain train ticket – but was in for a shock – not only were there not any  bargains, the prices were outrageously high!

It would have been cheaper to drive home and get train but unfortunately I couldn’t do that due to dog sitting duties, and so on Tuesday once the meeting was confirmed I booked my expensive train tickets.

And then the childminding community surprised me – they wanted to help with the cost of the train tickets. After several hours of me saying no (part of my ethos not to ask others to cover the cost of my volunteering – and I hardy ever put in expenses connected to my volunteering) I decided that actually, in these days of cuts to funding and everyone having to be more proactive about supporting each other – I thought these offers were genuine and a very positive step in the right right direction of the childminding community taking control and all working together. So I agreed I would accept small donations via my pay pal account – and four people very generously put money into that account – Carol, Debbie , Julie and Jean thank you all very much as between you, you covered just over a third of the costs of the train tickets, car park and so on.

Personally, I think in future childminders are going to have to do a lot more sharing of information and costs of attending things. Some people have the time but can’t afford to go to things, some people would like the information but don’t have the time to go – but would be happy to contribute a small amount to help others attend in return for information being shared.

We may need to set up a committee based group to manage the funds properly and so collect and distribute money – and to enable the sharing of information as widely as possible. Needs thinking about, as I think it needs to be an independent thing so that anyone can use it no matter what membership organisation, online group,  area where live etc

Anyway on with blog about the trip to London

I needed to print the comments from the petition site, from emails sent to me and comments on my blog ready to take with me BUT despite having taken printer, paper and ink with me to Chester ready to do this – my printer was not playing ball (or maybe more honestly my IT skills let me down – again!) It would not connect to my daughters router – my laptop had (although I admit my youngest daughter had done this before heading home after handing over from her week of dig sitting) but despite phoning youngest daughter and husband – both who are much better at such things than me – it would not connect.

PANIC

However this was another case of childminders coming together to support each other- and the problem was solved. Sue who lives about 20 mins from my daughter, printed the signature list and Brita arrange for me to visit the London office of one of the parents whose children she minds, so that the other stuff could be printed. Thank you to all concerned – problem solved.

And so at 4am on Wednesday 26th June I was up and giving the dogs some attention before starting my journey. By 5:20 am I am in the car heading for Chester train station – nervous tummy and all. By 6 am I am parked and sat on the platform (most put out that the station toilets are not open!)

6.26 am and I am on the train on my way to London – so relieved that I had pre booked my seat, as the train was packed by the time we reached Crewe.

8:30 am – three minutes before we should have arrived at Euston station – and clearly we were not near Euston – there is the announcement ‘Due to a broken down train we will be arriving late into Euston at aprox 9am

9 am in London and rushing across London – getting lost on the way – to the office of the parent who is going to do the printing. Get there hot, very red and rather sweaty! Then parents has trouble opening, copying and printing the documents – time is running out – check directions on his computer – should only take 12 mins to get Westminster – but that did not allow for large lady with swollen foot – and so as I arrive at Westminster tube station, Lynda and Jane (also from UKCMA) are having to go in without me – but text to say I am expected. So into the Parliament Gift shop I rush – which way to the Peers entrance please – I am told and off I run – as you would expect it is at the far end of the building

Lots of tourists in the way as all standing looking at / taking photo’s of the magnificent building – push my way through – keep going – can’t see any signs – but when near the end of the building I can see two police officers inside the fenced area – so I shout across to them  ‘ Which way to the Peers entrance?’ ‘ They reply  ‘ And who are you?’ I tell them ‘ You are expected they say’ and let me in – I feel like a very important person as I am told to go through the door in front of me (nerves now beyond a joke and I am starting to think ‘get me out of here’  – only think though due to nerves – no way was I not going to go through with this)

Inside another gentleman asks who I am, tells me not to panic and to slow my breathing (gosh I had not noticed how bad it was) . so I slow my breathing down, get my photo taken for my badge, my handbag and phone security scanned, and then I get escorted to the Lords Lounge (noticing on the way the rows of coat pegs / stands – all with names of Lords etc on them  – reminded me of school).

Inside Lynda and Jane are already seated, Lord Storey stands up, shakes my hand, and introduces himself and his PA who is taking notes. There is another person (a Lord I assume – reading on the sofa). It is clear that the discussion had already started, so it continues.

Before I start my recall of the meeting – I need to make it clear that I am not being critical of Lord Storey’s lack of knowledge of childminding prior to the meeting – because why would he have an in depth knowledge ? And it should be pointed out that prior to the meeting my own knowledge of the House of Lords was also not in depth.

I should mention that Lord Storey is a retired Primary school headteacher, he had a large nursery attached to his school, and knew that childminders collected some of the nursery and primary school children.

Lord Storey asked who was in favour of childminding agencies – all three of said as one ‘We have yet to meet them’

Lord Storey was interested to know if we had tried to contact those that were in favour of agencies. We explained that yes we had tried to gather their views as we wanted to present a balanced viewpoint – but all those that had responded were against agencies.

Lord Storey asking if the Government had consulted with childminders directly – here my information was slightly different to that of UKCMA – this goes to shows how difficult it is for anyone to keep up to date and how difficult to separate fact from fiction, and in any given situation who knows if what they are being told is fact or fiction?

Anyway I explained about the discussion groups that I had help organised for the DfE and the fact that then, as now, everyone was against the idea. I also said that I understood that Ms. Truss had met with some groups of childminders but due to the wording on the invitations they were mainly with those who ‘had an open mind’ and were seeking further information.

Lord Storey asked about the other membership organisations that represent childminders and what they thought about childminding agencies – I said that both Pre school Learning Alliance and PACEY had publicly stated their opposition to childminding agencies, and I mentioned both organisations involvement in debates during the House of Commons discussions about childminding agencies and their involvement in the Education Committee debates.

He also wanted to know if either PACEY or the Alliance had met with Elizabeth Truss – I replied that as far as I knew just once each – and UKCMA agreed that this is what they thought as well – ‘Have you met with Ms. Truss? Lord Storey asked UKCMA ‘ No – not yet they replied but we are trying to arrange a meeting’

Lord Storey then asked what were the good things about agencies – we tried to be positive and said some may find them supportive BUT that the support was already available through LA’s, membership organisations, online forums and peer to peer support.

It was then that Lord Storey said something that surprised me (and Lynda and Jane) he said that a positive would be that childminders would be inspected and that would help outcomes.

Naturally, I jumped in and explain about Ofsted inspections – Lord Storey was genuinely surprised and asked further questions – including – ‘Well how do they inspect you – do they come to your house?’

As I said before starting on my recall of the meeting this is not critical of Lord Storey and he is to be thanked for taking the time to find out more – BUT it is concerning that potentially those who will be taking the Children and Families Bill – including the childminding agency bit – through the House of Lords – will have very little knowledge and understanding about childminding, about what is already in place, about the importance of individual inspections and so on – and therefore will take the wording about agencies at face value – and think – well this seems a good idea.

Lord Storey was short of time as he had another meeting but before he had to leave UKCMA handed him a nicely presented copy of all the comments that they had received and made a point of saying that were not just from their members but were representative of childminders from across the country.

I presented him with all the comments I had – so everyone can be reassured that they comments – however sent in – have been passed on.

UKCMA handed Lord Storey a separate sheet of views – which I recognised as the comments from Rebecca Martland – saying that these were some ideas for an alternative for More Great Childcare – and pointing out that Rebecca is a PACEY member not one of their members.

Before he left Lord Storey had some advice and information for us

FIRST – The House of Lords CAN get changes made at this stage and that the important date to bear in mind is OCTOBER when the House of Lords will be doing just what the House of Commons did and looking at the Bill line by line – and therefore we had that time to get our message across and to ensure the Lords are as informed as as possible.

So work to do!

He also said that as a sector we need to work together, for the main membership organisations to work together on a plan of action that involved everyone and made sure information giving was the same and ‘goals’ were agreed on and acted on by everyone.

I think UKCMA are going to make some suggestions on this but for now I am going to add my comments;

The ratio campaign was successful because the sector did on the whole come together and agree on the aim – unofficially but it was still agreed on and it was reported in the media what everyone was doing and saying.

However it was also not as successful as it could of been as different people were doing different things – all with good intentions but no one was co  coordinating things, there was no sitting round the table either in person or via other methods of communication – in fact one of my personal frustrations was that having set up One Voice to provide links to as much information as possible – I was not sent links to include – I personally had to keep checking websites, blogs, online media and so on to try and keep up to date – and this was impossible as I am one person, I do not have a team behind me, I do not even have very good IT skills being self taught – and being a one finger typist the time taken to undertake updating One Voice was unmanageable, on top of my full time day job of at least 60 hours hands on childminding.

So I have to ask – why did organisations not send me the information? I don’t understand why not because One Voice acts via links back to the original source and was not re worded or commented on my me – maybe someone can tell me why?

The same lack of working together is now happening with the Stop, Listen, Consult petition – it does not have the support of others organisations – some have re tweeted the link -but have not officially given their support. I wonder if it is because some other early years professional do not understand about childminding agencies?

Maybe but surely they could take the word of childminders that this is not what childminders want and support childminders.

And what about the new early years qualifications and the whole QTS status thing?

What about 2 year olds and ‘formal’ learning?

What about the loss of the role of the Local Authorities?

What about play losing its importance?

I think – no I know from reading articles, blogs, tweets and so on that a lot of the sector are very concerned about many of these things – so why are they not signing the petition – as individuals who are concerned? (I understand that for organisations to sign that there has to be agreement and approval to do so).

Are in fact the sector by not supporting this petition saying to government that we are not that concerned? or are they saying this is mainly about childminders issues – and we are not that bothered or concerned? or are they saying I can’t see any point in signing this as we won’t get anywhere with it – and by not signing creating that very scenario? I don’t know the answer – I am just asking the questions.

And so moving forward and bearing in mind the suggestions made by Lord Storey – Can we come together as a sector? Can we work together on a action plan – each playing our own part but joined together by a action plan? Can people put aside the fact that they belong to or work for different organisations? Can people forget historical and personal reasons why have not worked together before? Can people say I believe this to be so important it does not matter what others say or think – I am not a sheep- I am an individual and so I am going to follow my own beliefs and principles and not wait for others to do something first?

Personally and professionally I feel I have no choice – I am passionate about the rights of children, about my profession as a registered childminder that I will personally do what I can to ensure that the children always come first. This is why I give up so much of my time, this is why I will work in partnership with anyone who shares my passion, this is why I will not give up.

What about you?

Please lets all come together as a sector and work together from the same action plan.

Lord Storey had one more suggestion – Involve as many people as possible who work with the children – he valued my contribution and said it was good to hear from those who have to implement the proposals.

UKCMA asked if he thought that if they could get others to come to London, that meetings would be arranged with some of the Lords – Lord Storey said ‘But of course – that is the whole purpose – to listen to views of the people, it is a strength of our system and you must try to get ‘everyday people’ here.

There was time for some photo’s then Lord Storey had to go – but as a bonus his PA gave us a quick tour of the Houses of Parliament – we could not  go everywhere but we were took down corridors to enable us to see much of it through windows and doors. I was over whelmed by the size, the history, the detail in the paintings, woodwork and so on.

V__229D

Lynda, me, Jane

Many thanks to Lord Storey and his PA for really listening and for wanting to know more,

to UKCMA for inviting me to attend with them and demonstrating their desire to work together with everyone,

to the childminders who contributed to the train tickets,

to the childminders who organised the printing,

to my friend Wendy who at very little noticed rustled up some lunch / tea for me

to all the childminders who sent in their views and who share information freely and who provide support to me and each other.

(and to my daughters dogs who despite being left for 15 hours had not left any ‘presents’ for me to clear up)

Together we can and do achieve so much – with the support of others we can achieve so much more.

UPDATE

Since publishing this further donations have been received – rather than keep update the list of names – I wioll leave it a day or two and then add a list of first names of all who have contributed

15 responses to “Chester to London to meet Lord Storey in the House of Lords – and a story of benefits of working together

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  1. ooh, I got a mention ;o)

    Rebecca Martland
  2. Pingback: a little glimmer of light - childminders....

  3. well done penny – hopefully this will get shared with other members of the lords. Thankyou

  4. Thank you Penny for taking the time and effort to represent us and the children we care for. We must come together and stand up for what we know is best for us, our settings and ‘our’ children.

  5. Awesome Penny!

  6. I think you are an amazing lady! Thank goodness you are here!
    I would love to help and come together…maybe panels of childminders should be set up in each city…all the panels then can come together! just a thought
    xxx

  7. Thank you penny appreciate all your hard work for us. Xx

  8. Thankyou Penny for all that you are doing. It is very much appreciated. We do need to all come together and show this government what we are made of!

    Heather Collins
  9. Thank you so much Penny you work so hard for us all what would we do without you.

  10. Well done Penny – keep going! You’re right a co-ordinated approach is definitely the order of the day.

  11. well done everyone involved. I do share, most of the posts, but it does frustrate me, that it isnt shared by ALL, every single early years practitioner>> maybe some are scared, maybe some are shy, maybe some dont know how, maybe some are just taking a back seat, and letting others do the work. I agree it is upto us, to share and highlight how important our profession is, and that we are somebody, and we do need to fight to be heard. xx

  12. We could all do with some information leaflets about agencies so that we all know the facts, especially in Lancashire where agencies are being piloted. There are so many here that just don’t have the information or realise what agencies will do if they get a foothold.

    • You are right of course Margaret we do need leafets. The Pacey information sheet is very good – but we could do with a leaflet that supports everyone – this is the sort of thing that I am hoping we can produce if all membership organisations, and individuals can come together – for example it could be One leaflet that everyone agrees on and that has the logo’s etc of everyone using it – showing that we are all working together.

      Let’s give them a couple of days to see if they respond – or not

  13. Thank you Penny it has taken me 4 attempts to read this without being interrupted, but finally I have done it. you work so hard for us all and make me feel so guilty that it takes 3 days to read a blog! Much to think about here.

  14. Well done Penny – I admire you for taking the time to travel to London and raise your concerns on behalf of all Childminders out there! I will definately NOT stay in a job I love if the agencies are agreed to! Thankyou again.

    Fran Greatorex

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