So we now have the details of the Children and Families Bill as amended in Grand Committee   Leave a comment

If you have not seen it yet THIS IS THE LINK TO THE DOCUMENT

For the purpose of this blog I am going to concentrate on pages 165 (towards the end) to 192 as this is where Childminding Agencies are mentioned.

As it will take far too long to comment on every single line – I am only going to comment on those lines that jump out at me as being important. To help others follow I will copy and paste the actual bit that I am commenting on.

In all cases my comments are my personal opinion

{6) In subsection (5), after paragraph (a) insert—

 “(aa) prohibiting the applicant from being registered in the early years register as an early years childminder if the applicant is registered with a childminder agency;
(ab) prohibiting the applicant from being registered with an early years childminder agency as an early years childminder if the
applicant is registered—
(i) with another childminder agency;
(ii) in the early years register or the general childcare register;”.

So if anyone was thinking they could register with more than one agency or register as a independent childminder and an agency – you can’t.

So questions that spring to my mind are;

How easy will it be to change agency, if the one you join does not meet your needs or turns out not to offer the services it says it will, or puts its fees up after a honeymoon period?

How is easy will it be to decide to re register as a independent childminder if you realise you have made a mistake in joining an agency. Or if you join an agency because that is what you are led to believe  you should do to register as a childminder,but then want to become a independent childminder once you have become registered?

In fact will it be possible to change either from an independent to an agency childminder and vice versus?

9 After section 37 insert—
“37A Early years childminder agencies: registers and certificates
(1) If an application under section 35(1)(b) is granted, the early years childminder agency must—
(a) register the applicant in the register maintained by the agency as an early years childminder, and
(b) give the applicant a certificate of registration stating that he or she is so registered.

I read this as agency childminders will have a agency certificate from their agency – which means they will not have a Ofsted certificate and furthermore it is quite likely that each agencies certificate will look different. I have to ask how is anyone, but especially parents supposed to make sense of this, supposed to be able to identify a genuine certificate ?

(2) If an application under section 36(1A)(b) is granted, the early years
childminder agency must—
(a) register the applicant in the register maintained by the agency as an early years provider other than a childminder,
in respect of the premises in question, and
(b) give the applicant a certificate of registration stating that he or she is so registered.

HANG ON – GROUP SETTINGS / NANNIES / OTHER EARLY YEARS SETTINGS –  ARE YOU READING THIS!

Provision here for those who are not childminders to be registered with the agency – just what are the Government thinking about doing in the future? Could it be that – as I have suggested before that other early years settings may in the future come under agencies?

However I acknowledge that I may be barking up the wrong tree – and maybe the government have in mind some sort of new early years practitioner – who is not an early years childminder – maybe – and it might be a wild guess – but a person who looks after children in their own home but who does not follow EYFS ? So a babysitter type person? or maybe a grandparent?

Who knows? I certainly don’t don’t because despite my active campaigning, my constant quest for information about childminding agencies – I still have very little information.

(3) A certificate of registration given to the applicant in pursuance of subsection (1) or (2) must contain prescribed information about
prescribed matters.
(4) If there is a change of circumstances which requires the amendment of a certificate of registration, the early years childminder agency
must give the registered early years provider an amended certificate.”

‘Prescribed information, prescribed matters’ – so not defined – and subject to being changed

51C Conditions on registration
(1) The Chief Inspector may impose such conditions as the Chief Inspector thinks fit on the registration of an early years childminder
agency under this Chapter.

‘As the chief Inspector thinks fit’ – mmm maybe I am naive and this sort of wording is already common place – but to me ‘thinks fit’ is too open to personal and organisation interpretation

51E Reports of inspections
(1) After conducting an inspection under section 51D, the Chief Inspector must make a report in writing on—
(a) the quality and standards of the services offered by the early years childminder agency to early years providers registered
with it, and
(b) the quality of leadership and management in the early years childminder agency

So when a childminding agency is inspected – these are the TWO points that must be commented on in the agencies inspection report

The next few points are about ‘Later years childminders’ which is more or less the same as the Early Years Childminder bit – and includes this bit which again mentions an early years provider who is not a childminder,

(3) A person who is registered as an early years provider (other than a childminder) with an early years childminder agency or as a later
years provider (other than a childminder) with a later years childminder agency in respect of particular premises may give notice
to the agency that he or she wishes to be registered with the agency in respect of the provision on the same premises of—
(a) later years provision (other than later years childminding) for a child who has attained the age of eight;
(b) early years provision or later years provision (other than early years or later years childminding) for a child who has not attained that age but in respect of which the person is not required to be registered under Chapter 2 or 3.

It would be really helpful to be told by the Government just who this early years provider – who is not a childminder, but who could register with a childminding agency.

The next bit I find worrying – and is not something that I have mention before in relation to agencies

“69A Cancellation, termination and suspension of registration with a childminder agency
(1) Regulations may make provision about the cancellation, termination and suspension of the registration of an early years provider or a
later years provider with an early years childminder agency or a later years childminder agency for the purposes of Chapter 2, 3 or 4, in
particular—
(a) about the termination by an early years provider or a later years provider of his or her registration;

This is fine it is when the childminder chooses to terminate their registration
(b) for the creation of offences relating to things done while a registration is suspended;

So if the agency had suspended a registration – they could act, even terminate registration for certain offences – again fine if these offences are about childminding while suspended BUT it does not clarify here what these offences might be – how about if you disagree with suspension, or think the conduct of agency staff is not acceptable?
(c) about the resolution of disputes between an early years provider or a later years provider and an early years childminder agency or a later years childminder agency.

So if a person had a dispute with a childminding agency they could be suspended or have their registration terminated. However what is a dispute – it could in theory be about anything and so in theory a person could be suspended or have registration terminated for ANY dispute

It goes on then as follows
(2) Regulations by virtue of subsection (1) which make provision about the suspension of the registration of an early years provider or a later
years provider with a childminder agency must include provision conferring on the registered provider a right of appeal to the Tribunal against suspension.
(3) Regulations made by virtue of subsection (1)(b) may only create offences which are—
(a) triable only summarily, and
(b) punishable only with a fine not exceeding the level specified in the regulations, which may not exceed level 5 on the standard scale.”

This is saying that you could get fined for ‘offences’. In my opinion this is not needed, and it is far too open to abuse of the fine system, to open to personal interpretation.  Colleagues in Australia have told us that in their country,  fines are very varied in amount and what for – even if maximum amounts are set, agencies  make their own rules about amount of fine and what for within those limits. Personally this one aspect would enough to stop me from joining an agency -even if I could join as a independent Ofsted registered childminder, because I don’t think fines are the professional way to treat childminders – I would much prefer support, training, advice – to help me improve my practice.

I need to make it clear that I am very much in favour of everyone meeting the requirements of registration, and that registration should be suspended  and even terminated,  but that to fine people – to even have provision that people could be fined, by an agency that makes it own rules,  is in my opinion not appropriate.

The next bits are about suspension and voluntary removal from childcare registers of childminding agencies.

69C Suspension of registration: childminder agencies

(1) Regulations may provide for the registration of a person registered under Chapter 2A or 3A as an early years childminder agency or a
later years childminder agency to be suspended for a prescribed period in prescribed circumstances

70A Voluntary removal from a childcare register: childminder agencies
(1) A person registered under Chapter 2A or 3A as an early years childminder agency or a later years childminder agency may give notice to the Chief Inspector of a wish to be removed from the early years register or (as the case may be) from Part A of the general childcare register.

Again I do agree with this but the big questions are around what will happen to the childminders registered with that agency, and also to parents and children using the services of the agency childminder. Communication with colleagues in Australia have provided evidence that there can be huge problems for providers and parents if an agency is closed or suspended. Therefore it is essential that very clear procedures are put in place so that everyone understands what will happen in the event of an agency closing or being suspended or changes the registers that registered for.

The next section is about information that the agency should share with Government departments – again this is acceptable but people do need to know  what information will be shared.

(1) An early years childminder agency or a later years childminder
agency must provide prescribed information to the Secretary of
State, Her Majesty‘s Revenue and Customs, and each relevant local
authority, if it—
(a) grants a person’s application for registration for the purposes
of Chapter 2, 3 or 4;
(b) takes any other steps under this Part of a prescribed
description.
(2) The information which may be prescribed for the purposes of this section is—
(a) in the case of information to be provided to the Secretary of State, information which the Secretary of State may require for the purposes of the Secretary of State’s functions in relation to universal credit under Part 1 of the Welfare Reform Act 2012;
(b) in the case of information to be provided to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, information which Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs may require for the purposes of their functions in relation to tax credits;
(c) in the case of information to be provided to a relevant local authority, information which would assist the local authority in the discharge of their functions under section 12.

There is of course also a bit about sharing information to safeguard children and families – which is as it should be.

As I said at the beginning of this blog, I have not commented on everything – and so if readers want to comment on other aspects – please do so.

Posted November 22, 2013 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

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