As the pilots for childminding agencies start, there are some questions ALL childminders should be asking   12 comments

If we do not ask certain questions – we may well find that childminding agencies are declared a success. We may well find that the government decide they are so successful  that they should ensure all childminders join one. We may well find that the option to remain independently registered and inspected is not available in the future.

Please Note

This is one of the most important blogs that I have ever written – and I am writing it in the first person because I want this blog to be shared widely with just about every childminder in the country (and with those who are thinking of registering as childminders) because the future of registered childminding depends on childminders and prospective childminders reading this and asking the questions contained within this blog.

I want to make it VERY CLEAR – I give permission for this blog to be shared by providing the link back here, by copying and pasting , in part or in its entirety (with or without the link)  into emails, into newsletters, on to social media, in magazines, via organisations and associations, also to be shared verbally; in fact to be shared in anyway that is possible.

This blog is not for personal gain in any way – apart from a genuine effort to save the profession that I am passionate about, because I believe that moves are being made to ensure the Government have the data to say childminding agencies are so successful that after the evaluations,  they will change their plans and say that independent Ofsted registration and inspection is not cost effective and therefore all childminders will have to join childminding agencies.


So why am I so concerned ? 

I believe those who are saying – ‘well it is simple – we just won’t join an agency and they will therefore not be successful’ are trusting the Government not to change their plans

I believe that those who think local authorities will still support them – no matter what – do not understand that the budget cuts that local authorities have had so far, are not over yet

I believe the government is pushing local authorities to move  to commissioned services – that is the local authority farm out all the services they provide to BUSINESSES – that is companies that need to make a profit, will not receive Government funding and so will charge  for the services they provide

On what information are my concerns based?

As we all know the pilots for the childminding agencies are now starting to be rolled out and I think most of us know that there will be a first stage evaluation in early 2014 and final evaluation in March / April 2014.

This means that the pilots are only to be running for 6 months maximum – in fact it will be a lot less as the data will have to be collected and presented to the Government. Take out the Christmas holiday period and it becomes clear that actually these pilots are only going to have a few weeks in which to demonstrate if childminding agencies will work or not.

However very little other information has been released – and even with an ear to the ground and many colleagues across the country passing on the little bits of information that they have been told – the picture is a little vague.

I think that 3 or maybe 4 local authorities have been given the go ahead to run pilots, some nurseries and although not 100% sure – maybe some businesses –  all of which supports the Governments intention to pilot different models and aspects of agencies.

I also have heard several rumours / suggestions that childminders may be enticed to take part in the agency pilots through free resources or access to online training or payment of some of the things we all have to pay but would rather not (such as the fee to ICO,) or free access to online magazine subscriptions or documentation packages.

The list above might seem familiar to some, as I believe in some areas childminders have been asked ‘What can we do or provide to improve our service to you? – and so without knowing it, childminders have outlined the ‘package’ that they would like!

Some have suggested that prospective childminders may not have a choice and will automatically go through the registration process through the pilots, and then into agencies.

And so although all of the things mentioned would be very nice, and it would be tempting to say – ‘Yes Please’ – caution and common sense need to be applied.

You are all sensible people, you all run your own business – so think about it;

The question has to be ‘WHY?’

‘Why would a local authority, or a nursery or a business want to give you something for nothing?’

In these days of budget cuts, and rising costs – you rarely get something for nothing – there usually is a catch – and so it makes sense to check things out, to ask some questions.

I am not suggesting that these are the only questions that you should ask – but they are a good place to start

Are you taking part in the childminding agencies pilots in any way? 

It is important to ask ‘in any way’ because it would be easy to say ‘no’ as in not doing everything – when in fact we know that some are only piloting certain aspects.

By taking part in this training / trial of online support,(and similar) are there any conditions – if so please can I please have a copy of the conditions in writing?

This is important because it is easy to think how nice, this sounds good – without checking the small print. Also just by taking part in ‘a no strings attached’ trial you could unknowingly be providing the evidence for agencies – ie data such as 95% of childminders taking part in the trail said they found it easy to use / improved their practice and so on. Therefore question one should also be asked.

Why have you called this meeting?

It is possible that meetings will be arranged – and maybe different groups of childminders together – so that sales tactics can be used. If you think about it, those who have a satisfactory grade will have different support needs to those who have a good or a outstanding grade, those in active groups will have more understanding of current issues than those who don’t. Therefore the sales tactics can be tailored – at the end of the day all that is needed is people to take part in the pilots – so that data can be collected.

Why are you giving me this resource / documentation?

There will be a reason – they want you to feel grateful and so more willing to try things. Or they want your opinion about documentation – and don’t be surprised if they flatter you by saying ‘We are asking you because you are so good at checking things / providing feedback etc’ – because again they want to be able to say that experienced childminders like the new documents / found the resource beneficial – so ask why and what their next steps are.

You say this is free – will it always be free or will I get charged for this support / documentation / training etc in the future?

You must ask this question because it is possible that if everyone says the resources / documentation is really good (which they are likely to if it is provided free in the first instance) – that at a later date there will be a charge applied – and even if not applied to the first cohort of people a charge could be applied to others / become part of an agencies services.

Whatever you do – Please do not sign ANYTHING or add your name to a list, or say you are interested in receiving any resource or documentation or training or online support without going home and thinking about it, without discussing with colleagues, without having everything clearly stated in writing- including the answers to your questions

Prospective Childminders

If you know anyone who is applying to become a childminder and going through the registration process PLEASE get them to ask if they are part of an agency  – remember charges can’t be made yet, inspection has to be done through Ofsted at the moment BUT rumours suggest that some prospective childminders may be asked to sign up for ‘a support package’ with no idea that the support package will in future be part of an agency and that there will be a cost applied. Again even if the first cohort are not charged and get everything free – the data of succcess will be there – ie childminders are using the agencies

Please remember that your development worker / network coordinator, any other LA staff may know less than you –  because if services are going to be provided by a business or a commissioned service instead of the local authority – these staff could well lose their jobs and so they may not be told anything or only given brief or vague details.

Those of you who think I am being over dramatic – worrying for nothing, even that I am spreading speculation and creating stress and worry for nothing or maybe for my own benefit – I say to those people what evidence have you got that I am wrong?

I understand that some local authorities and others have spent considerable amounts of money and time into putting their agency proposals together and in setting up systems so can roll out agencies as soon as the changes to the law are made – would they do this if they were not confident that not only will agencies be implemented but also that childminders will join them? And with so many saying they don’t want to join an agency and so many others saying ‘Its easy – we just won’t join’ where has the confidence that childminding agencies will be successful come from?

And a final point – unless I have missed it  – the wording within the Children and Family Bill does not say;

some childminders can choose to join agencies

 childminders will have the right  to be individually inspected by Ofsted

It says

Childminder agencies

Schedule 4 (amendments to the Childcare Act 2006 to provide for the registration of childminder agencies on the childcare registers and the registration of certain childcare providers with those agencies, and other related amendments) has effect.

In the explanation taken from THIS PAGE

  • Clause 73 and Schedule 4 contain provisions for childminders to register with a childminder agency rather than applying directly for registration with the Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills

Well of course I may be wrong – but that wording suggests to me that this could be read as ‘all childminders’ as much as it could be read ‘some childminders’

So at the end of the day all we have is the word of Elizabeth Truss – and she could change her mind – she could say as so successful it would be wrong to prevent all childminders from joining an agency – she could say the Government can’t afford to individually inspect childminders – she could say that as some cm getting a lot of support through agencies it is unfair that others get little or no support.

In fact she could say a thousand different things – but that all have the same impact – ie all childminders must be registered and inspected through an agency.

OR She may get replaced by someone else who will say – I did not say that and I think ………..

So I am asking you all directly and personally

– can you take the risk that Elizabeth Truss will not change her mind or be replaced?

– what do you have to lose by signing the petition Link to Stop, Listen, Consult petition

– what do you have to lose by writing to your MP, the DfE, the representatives of the House of Lords

– what do you have to lose by asking questions to ensure you are not unwittingly providing data that will provide evidence of the success of childminding agencies.


What do you have to potentially lose if you continue to say ; It is simple – all I have to do is not join an agency?

I would say – Potentially you have everything to lose – and in my opinion to potentially lose the right to remain registered and inspected by Ofsted is not worth the risk.

Posted August 19, 2013 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

12 responses to “As the pilots for childminding agencies start, there are some questions ALL childminders should be asking

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  1. This blog is too long winded. Rewrite it just giving the simple facts and cut out the rest.

    • Personal opinion I think Teresa. 1,071 people have read this blog so far and many have commented.

      I don’t think I could make it any shorter – but maybe you could have a go and post it here for others to read?

  2. I can think of lots of reasons not to join an agency
    but not many to make me want to join.

  3. Well done Penny. I think that the current government remains clueless about childminders and what makes them choose this job. Where I used to childmind, the council were so short sighted that in their budget cuts they cut the childminding support team and then had to back track when they realised just how much was involved with ensuring childminders are supported. They also now employ 5 childminders to do similar work to the team they removed. Local government is the same as central government in that they make short term decisions to fix a problem now. People’s assumption that a government agency such as Ofsted would rather inspect individual childminders at a high cost instead of farming them out to cut costs don’t understand how government budgeting works. All I can see with this obsession with agencies is Elizabeth Truss having been presented with an idea that she has been sold on. Her recent comments about copying the Maternelle system in France and expecting children to be quiet and sitting down is another example of how she doesn’t understand early childcare or development.
    If childminders want to continue as independent businesses, choosing where they invest their money, where an inspection is a formality that helps guide their businesses and helps parents make a choice, then making it clear you are against the agency model is important. I don’t want to be forced to join an agency that hasn’t been defined yet. An agency that will employ people that will need to be paid and will have running costs. Any costs incurred by me, that are additional to what I already pay, will be passed on to parents.Parents already have to pay high childcare costs in order for early years providers to run their businesses now. And that includes nurseries that also want to make a profit from parents.
    I hope enough people realise that not only is this model simply a way for the government to save money on individual inspections which must be costing them lots – one inspector per childminder vs one inspector per nursery is a considerable cost to the government. But it is also a way to fragment the market and make it harder for parents to compare childcare across the country if there are agencies running in different ways.

  4. My LA Staffs, now called entrust have been chosen to pilot an agency, there are meetings in the south of the county which as usual I am unable to attend due to distance to travel and time they are held, but after asking them, they have said that I can submit questions to them in writing so if you have anymore that you think need asking Penny I will post them with my reply.

    • Thank you Margaret

      I think some of the important questions based on your local knowledge are about current support and training provision – will this still be available to those who don’t want to join the agency?

      Also the cost one – not for the pilot but for it becomes a ‘real’ agency – so what will the cost be? If they don’t know ask them to find out.

      If I think of anymore I will let you know

  5. I find that the lack of information on how these agencies will work disturbing – they obviously have something to hide. I guess when we go back one of the main reasons for the changes to childcare was to make it more affordable for parents. The question is how? If an agency decides to take a percentage of a childminders turnover ie before tax and expenses, allowances etc, we will all have to put up our prices to cover that won’t we? I don’t mind paying a bit more for Ofsted registration if it helps them cover their costs – but if we pay more I want a quality, consistent service, that is constructive and is not there to wave the sword of power, but to work in the interests of the children just as we do. Perhaps if some of the Inspectors were not so officious, they might not find it necessary to spend hours picking faults like where are the plug sockets and why isn’t your carpet green instead of blue!! (Sorry being sarcastic). I have very close ties to New Zealand and they have agencies there too, these are independent agencies and also branches of Banardos etc. The way it works there is that the agency pays the childminder $5 per hour and charges the parent $5.50 per hour to cover their costs – they do all the admin. The government helps the childminder further by giving them proper tax breaks as in the first $3.50 per hour is tax free and then you can claim all your expenses etc on the remaining $1.50. The agency provides all your training (some paid by you) and can even provide toys and resources as and when you need them even down to buggies etc. The problem here is that I don’t trust how the agencies will operate because there seems to be a lot of people involved in making these decisions who don’t have the knowledge or skill to make them in a sensible way, informed way. If we were pushed into a corner and ordered to join an agency that was all about the government and Ofsted, then I would leave the profession and more than likely go back to New Zealand where my skills as a home educator will be appreciated and treated with respect and fairness.

  6. Pingback: childminders to be run by agencies!!!

  7. I have worked hard over the years to provide a good childcare service I have most of my work through word of mouth , I don’t need or want to join an agency I am more than happy to be Ofsted inspected solely on the care and learning environment I provide .

  8. Unfortunately I don’t think the government are trying to hide anything ! Reading this has just added to my worst fears ! The government haven’t got a clue about Childminding ,what a Childminder does ,the skills they have and the commitment to training and quality care we all provide! I am lost for words !THEY HAVEN’T GOT A CLUE! I am not surprised that some of the trials are dated as Jan. 2014 I live in Hampshire where one of the trials are supposed to be happening ,what have I heard of this trial ! NOTHING a big fat nothing! They are going along with this on a wing and a prayer with no funding and no idea what this involves ! “CHILDMINDING thats what all those uneducated housewife’s do who can’t be bothered to go to work! “This is what they think !I’m afraid you can’t educate idiots so we haven’t a chance with this lot of small minded do gooders ,who can’t even be bothered to ask the people who know the job best! Sorry ,disappointed and SO sad!

    Angeline Hargreaves
  9. I gave up childminding in July 2013, after 13 years, due to dissatisfaction with the way things are heading. I was graded outstanding and was a member of several special needs networks. I now work in finance, within an independent fostering agency, and I can see how agencies work. This move will lower the level of service provided by childminders, lower their income and raise prices for parents. Childminders with a low Ofsted rating will be able to hide within the agency, not fulfilling the current expectations of Ofsted. Good or outstanding childminders will have their reputation dragged down by the agency. Agencies do not function efficiently in my experience – not for carers or parents. They function purely for their own gain. Many carers get away with being non-compliant and correct procedures break down. I’m very pleased that I don’t have to use childcare any more or work as a childminder.

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