Childminders no longer able to provide funded Early Years Education Places to own child   13 comments

For well over 10 years registered childminders who were approved to do so, have been able to provide  the Governments funded Early Years Education places for their own child of eligible age.

The name of these funded hours has changed over the years, as have the number of hours, but approved registered childminders have been providing these funded hours successfully for many years.

The criteria for being approved has also changed over the years;

At first it was only those childminders who were approved through the NCMA (now Pacey) ‘children come first’ childminding networks. Assessment was rigorous, and there was very regular monitoring through announced and unannounced  home visits. There was also a requirement for training and continuous professional development.

And the system worked well, in that fully assessed and approved Network Childminders achieved the highest grades from Ofsted  and provided every child in their care  (including their own child / grandchild) with excellent care and education. The Network itself was monitored and assessed by independent assessors, and every Network Childminder was also independently inspected by Ofsted – in those days at least every three years.

At first there was Government funding to set up and run the Childminding Networks, however once the funding stopped, Local Authorities were not always able to continue to fund the networks, and / or to expand them to offer more childminders the opportunity to become Network Childminders (although some did), due to the requirement to have one full time Network Coordinator for every 40 Network Childminders – and if there was more than one coordinator, a manager as well.

It was therefore not an entirely open or accessible scheme as not all childminders who wanted to be Network Childminders could do so.

There then started a process of reducing the requirements – so Local Authorities could set their own criteria (within guidelines) and so some reduced the number of monitoring visits, or cut the services offered to Network Childminders, or increased the number of Network Childminders per co-ordinator, or introduced generic childminding staff that covered all aspects within the childminding team – including the Network Childminders.

Soon Local Authorities were dropping the robust assessment process and using other methods – such as ECCERS and / or Ofsted grade – so Childminding Networks started to reduce in number, although a few did continue.

The situation now in most Local Authority areas, is that there are no longer Childminding Networks, and since September 2013, all childminders with an Ofsted grade of good or outstanding can provide the funded Early Years  Education places.

In addition with the cuts to Local Authority budgets, those childminders with a good or outstanding Ofsted grade do not receive any targeted support, and in some areas there is no longer a childminding team within the LA Early Years department – and in some cases no longer a Early Years department.

At the same time, the time period between Ofsted inspections is being stretched with those who have a good or outstanding grade often having four years (or longer) between inspections.

However, during all these changes – there has not been any mention of childminders being unable to claim funding for the own child’s Early Years Education place – until very recently that is.

And as is proving to be  typical of this  Government, there was not any public announcement or any coordinated approach to introducing a change. Childminders have been finding out area by area through a letter from their Local Authority – but not all areas at once – just a few at the moment (but no doubt with more to follow).

I personally found out when a colleague forwarded the information sent out in Hampshire – and I have since found out that childminders in Wiltshire and Cornwall have also received the same information – there may be more – but I have not be told about them.

This is the information that Hampshire Childminders received in December 2013

The Department for Education (DfE) have recently update Local Authorities on more robust guidance in relation to childminders who are Approved EYE providers claiming for their own child.
 
The DfE have clearly stated:
“a childminder cannot claim funding for providing childcare for their own children. Early years provision is defined in section 20 of the Childcare Act 2006. This definition of childcare specifically excludes care provided for a child by a parent or step-parent (or other relative). The provision by a childminder (for her own child) does not count as childcare in legal terms. Early education funding (DSG) cannot be claimed by, or spent on, parents providing childcare for their own child, even if they are claiming for other children.”
 
Such guidance will therefore be reflected in Hampshire County Council’s pending revision of their ‘Early Years Education Payment Funding terms and conditions’,; an updated version will be in place in line with the new financial year (01 April 2014).
 
Hampshire County Council acknowledge that approved providers who may currently be claiming for their own child will need to secure alternative provision for the future  to ensure their own child receives their full entitlement. Therefore, please be advised that the Jan 1st – March 31st 2014 funding period (traditionally the Spring term) will be the last funding period the Local Authority will be able to approve EYE funding in such cases
 
It is good that Hampshire have given their childminders plenty of advance warning – and that they acknowledged that childminders currently claiming for their own child need time to secure alternative provision.

I have yet to find the actual ‘robust guidance’ from the DfE that Hampshire refer to – but I don’t doubt that there is some, nor do I question the statement quoted from the Children Act 2006 – it is a fact.

What I do question is – WHY – when the Children Act 2006  has been in place for most of the time that childminders have been claiming for their own child’s Early Years Education hours – has this not been highlighted before – for example when the Children Act 2006 became law, why were childminders not told then that they could no longer claim for their own child? It would have made sense – a change in the law needs to be applied – but in this case it was not.

Having not made the change at the time the Children Act 2006 became law – why was it not considered during the long time scale process of consultation prior to the introduction of the Early Years Foundation Stage 2008? Or during the review of Early Years Foundation Stage 08 and the introduction of Early Years Foundation Stage  2012? Both EYFS 08 and 12 were major documents governing Early Years Settings – including childminders –  and both have the Children Act 2006 as one of the major pieces of lesigation underpinning them. So  both in 2008 and 2012 there was a prime opportunity to ensure the law (as in childminders claiming for their own child’s Early Years Education) was upheld and the changes implemented. However as we know these opportunities were also missed and childminders continued to be able to claim the funding for their own child.

SO – WHY NOW?

WHY DOES IT NEED ADDRESSING NOW?

WHAT HAS CHANGED?

IF IT HAS BEEN OK FOR OVER TEN YEARS, WHY IS IT NOT OK NOW?

I have been trying to think of reasons as to why the  Government via the Department for Education have decided to act now – out of the blue – with no apparent reason for suddenly deciding to uphold this particular requirement of the Children Act 2006.

So – I am of course just guessing, just trying to apply my own knowledge and understanding to the situation – but I don’t really know. Also although I am not questioning the need for the law to be upheld – I will be looking at it through the eyes of a childminder (and the eyes of a grandmother who was planning to claim the funding for a grandchild in 2015) and looking at the impact on myself and colleagues.

First possible reasons that I can think of;

  • Is it because ‘someone’ has pointed out the oversight in allowing childminders to claim funding for their own child or grandchild?
  • Is it because now all childminders with a good or outstanding Ofsted grade can provide the funded Early Years Education places, the Government are concerned that there will be an increase in the number of childminders not only providing places for their own child but also for their grandchild where applicable, thus increasing the % of the take up of places and therefore increase Government expenditure?
  • Are the Government hoping that these childminders will provide free childcare and education to their child / grandchild (because they do genuinely believe the child’s needs will be best met in their setting and so won’t send to another Early Years setting) and so will reduce Government expenditure?
  • Is it because the Government think that the quality of these places for own child or grandchild is likely to be of a lower quality?
  • Is it because, despite what the Government keep saying about childminders being an equal and valued part of the early years workforce, they are being proactive in making childminding settings ‘different’  to other early years settings?

Who knows? I certainly don’t, because as experience has taught me, this Government does not feel the need to explain reasons for change or to provide detail of these changes. Consultation is limited or non existent, and the impact on those who live in and work in this country – in this case childminders – is brushed aside.

Now for my thoughts on  this decision to implement this aspect of the Children Act 2006;

  • If  ‘someone’ has pointed out this oversight in upholding the Children Act 2006 – why have the Government not made a public statement? Why have they not granted themselves a time period to look at this and to consider if they can make a amendment to the law or even to make the situation whereby childminders can provide early years education for their own child or grandchild legal and clearly define the difference between being able to claim just childcare (ie through tax credits) and claiming for an education place (ie the funded hours)
  • If the government are concerned about the quality of  early years education places provided for childminders own children or grandchildren – then they should be worried about all places offered by childminders. The quality of provision of these places should be the same for all children attending the setting – and if not – this should be picked up during Ofsted inspection. If quality is not standard or maintained between inspections, then the Government should question THEIR decisions about reducing Local Authority budgets, increasing time periods between Ofsted inspections – and in the future the decision to introduce childminding agencies and the the removal of the need for all childminders to be quality assured through the same standard Ofsted inspection.

In basic terms – If a childminder is approved to offer a Early Years Education place to other people’s children – then there is no reason why they can not              provide the same quality of  early years education to their own child or grandchild (once the legal situation has been dealt with)

  • If the Government are concerned that now all childminders with a good or outstanding grade can provide Early Years Education places – and if childminders claim for own children or Grandchildren – that there will be an increase in Government expenditure – shame on them – Do they not have enough funds to uphold their promise of 15 hours free early years education for EVERY child?
  • If the Government hope that parents / grandparents who are childminders will provide free places to their child / grandchild – how can they predict if these children will access their funding at other settings – or not?

Moving on to the impact on childminders and the Governments stated aims about increasing the professionalism, income and numbers of childminders;

  • The Government has acknowledged that childminders do not earn as much as other early years professionals – and in fact some earn less than the minimum wage before deducting business expenses. One way that childminders can increase their income is being able to claim funding for their child’s early years education, which after all they are approved to do for other children. Childminding regulations mean that a childminders own children count for ratio reasons (as they should) but they count even if the child is at nursery, with a grandparent, or even with a parent that does not live at the family home. This means that a childminder can not use their child’s place for another child at any time – not even to provide a funded place to another child for the same hours as their child attends another setting.  For some childminders this loss of income will make the difference between their childminding income being sufficient to being unmanageable, and as a result they may have to give up childminding and look for another job. It would be worth the government considering the impact on the benefits system, if these childminders found other employment and claimed tax credits to help with childcare costs. It seems to me that these parents are working parents – and by being childminders they not only limit their own income through counting their own children within ratio’s but they also save the Government a lot of money by not being able to claim childcare tax credits for their children. In my opinion, it is time the Government looked at the bigger picture and the cost implications of the requirement in the Children Act 2006 for parents not being able to claim for their own child’s childcare costs or early years education funding. As there is already a requirement for childminders to have other non relative children on role to be a childminder the safeguards against people claiming for the own children when they are not in fact practising childminders is already in place – and could be tighten by a requirement to actually have proof of income from clients before tax credits or funding is paid. Think about it – these childminders are working parents and they are in effect being discriminated against for being childminders rather than say a nursery practitioner or a teacher, who can and do claim tax credits for their childcare costs and the early years education funding – even if their child attends the same setting as the one they work in.
  • Grandparents who are childminders, often provide a place for their grandchild free of charge (the same as non childminder grandparents do) or at a subsidised rate, but this of course has a knock on effect to their income, so as with parents who are childminders, grandparents who are childminders often rely on claiming the funding for their grandchild to help ensure their setting is sustainable. It would be worth the government considering the impact on the benefits system if  grandparents decide that not being able to claim the funding for their grandchild is the final straw and reluctantly say they can no longer afford to provide a place for their grandchild. Why should childminders who are also grandparents be discriminated against? Their grandchild receives the same care and education as a child who is not a grandchild. And if the childminder grandparent does stop providing the place for the grandchild – the child’s parents will either not be able to work – and will claim benefits – or they will place the child in another early years setting and potentially claim tax credits and early years education funding. In my opinion the Government are not thinking this through – push childminding grandparents enough, make their businesses unsustainable and the Government will end up with a huge increase in expenditure.
  • Apart from the immediate impact on income for childminders who are parents or grandparents of an eligible child, there is likely to be a knock on effect for the following reasons;

–   Parents of similar age children might decide that if their childminders child or grandchild has to attend another early years setting                                                         to access the early years education funding – then they will send their child to that same setting rather than accessing through the                                                          childminder. This is because the children are often friends and parents want them to stay together.

– The government will be giving a hidden message that the childminder is ‘not good enough’ to provide a funded place for their own                                                             child or grandchild – and so parents of other children will question if the childminder is good enough to provide a funded place for                                                        their child

– If the childminder is having to take and fetch their own child or grandchild from another setting, it will impact on the opportunities                                                       and experiences that they can offer to other children. For example – an hour of each funded session offered to children in the                                                                    childminding setting may be spend in walking or driving to take fetch childminders own child / grandchild from the other setting.                                                             And although outings can offer excellent learning opportunities – those offered during the same journey day after day are more                                                              limited and so would parents accessing their child’s funding through a childminder doing these journeys consider it a high quality                                                          learning experience / opportunity for their child?

  • If the Government are genuine in their stated aims to increase childminders income and professionalism – they are not thinking it through very well. Neither are they considering the impact on their plans to encourage more parents into work by becoming childminders, because the very points raised above will also have a bearing on if childminding is sustainable for these prospective childminders. And certainly other employment (if they can find it) would be more financially viable if you take childcare benefits and claiming Early Years Education funding into account. Add to that situation the fact that prospective childminders will in future have to pay the ‘going rate’ to register and possibly agency fees as well – then childminding really does not seem to be a very attractive or financially viable option.

What at first glance appears to be just the removal of the ability to claim Early Years Education for your own child or grandchild and a tightening up of requirement to uphold the Children Act 2006 – is actually a much bigger issue that will impact on childminders who are parents or grandparents of children aged 3 and 4, on the profession as a whole – and potentially have a huge impact on Government expenditure if those who are currently childminders decide that they can not continue to childmind for financial reasons, or decide that they can not continue to provide free or subsidised places to grandchildren.

There are currently over 50,000 registered childminders who run successful small businesses, who provide a lot of childcare to their own children or grandchildren without the benefit of accessing childcare tax benefits, who are working parents, who have-  to be blunt ‘got off their backsides’ and been proactive in setting up and running their businesses – all of which have huge benefits to society, to the Government and more importantly to the families and children using their childminding service.

Many of these childminders are already leaving the profession because income is too limited, because of the removal of local authority support and increased training costs,  because they are fed up with constant changes to regulations, because they do not agree with the introduction of childminding agencies and the resulting unfair two tier system ……..

………….and now the removal of the ability to claim funding for their child / grandchild’s early years education place ……..

……..it will not be a surprise to me,  if this turns out to be the final straw, and ever increasing numbers of childminders resign – that is dedicated professional childminders, who have the highest Ofsted grades – the ones who always put the needs of the children first – the ones who really care – the ones that parents rely on to provide flexible, high quality care and education that meets their families needs – the ones who spend hours of their own unpaid time ensure that they do provide the highest standards of care and education.

Posted December 31, 2013 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

13 responses to “Childminders no longer able to provide funded Early Years Education Places to own child

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  1. My letters to people like Baroness Ashton were, according to Gill Haynes who was then head of NCMA (now PACEY), instrumental in bringing about the change that allowed childminders to provide early years education for their own children. I am appalled at this change which the Government has brought in without warning. I can not put into words how insulting the current Government are towards childminders.

    • I am sure Gill Haynes (a person I admire) is right Susan – and your letters did bring about the change. It is a shame that our combined efforts as a childminding sector, are having no impact at all.

  2. Is the funding provided for ‘childcare’ or ‘early years education’? As childminders we are not only providing quality childcare we are also providing early years learning opportunities, which despite the child being the minders own child is receiving! This early years education – opportunities and outings and resources that takes time and money to provide. It seems unfair that a child taking up an early years space and being provided with the advantages of these opportunities is now being deprived of receiving the early years funding!
    Are children that attend settings where the parent works denied funding?
    Just seems another way for the government to reduce their spending while squeezing the childminders!

  3. What a surprise ,this government are unravelling our businesses before our eyes !What happened to them supporting small businesses???? I can not put into words the disgust that I feel for what the government are doing to a profession that I have loved for over 20 years and I’m sure its all out of ignorance!

    Angeline Hargreaves
  4. The DfE have clearly stated:

    “a childminder cannot claim funding for providing childcare for their own children. Early years provision is defined in section 20 of the Childcare Act 2006. This definition of childcare specifically excludes care provided for a child by a parent or step-parent (or other relative). The provision by a childminder (for her own child) does not count aschildcare in legal terms. Early education funding (DSG) cannot be claimed by, or spent on, parents providing childcare for their own child, even if they are claiming for other children.”

    The info we received actually says any relative, so does this include aunties, cousins, etc, etc?

    • Hello Di, I am not sure as it is a grey area – normally it is taken as close relative so parent or grandparent BUT it is not clear ans so will depend on who interprets it. Also in these days of step families – does it also mean step parent or grandparent and so on.

      Once again the ‘rules’ are not clear and open to personal interpretation. The government would save a lot of worry and uncertainty if they provided details in plain English that everyone can understand.

  5. I’m a little behind on reading this blog and commenting, but have finally done so. I’ve just sent this reply to PACEY who have informed me (in Hampshire) that I can not claim for my son. Reading your blog was as if you were talking directly to me, all of those consequences are happening to ME. I’m so cross and the more I read about it, the crosser I get. The thing is…. what can we do about it? Genuinely…. what can I do?

    Here’s my email….

    I’m very disappointed to hear that the rules have been changed with regards for claiming EYE for our own children, especially considering this has been encouraged and used as an incentive by PACEY. Unfortunately, my son is due to receive his funding in April 2014, so very bad timing for us! Also, I have not secured my son a pre-school place, as I had planned (and budgeted) to claim for him and there are long waiting lists at both of our local pre-schools. Therefore, I’m disappointed that his EYE money will be wasted, even though he is receiving the quality childcare/early year education that is expected from an accredited EYE provider. As encouraged by PACEY in the beginning of my childminding career, I have a business plan that includes the expectation that I would recieve this money for my son. Especially considering I have since found out that I can not fill my son’s place whilst he is at pre-school, even though my husband is home and can be responsible for picking him up and hence not increasing my cared for numbers or going over ratio. This puts me in a very difficult financial situation, which was unexpected when I made the decision to register as a childminder in 2012. I’m now having to consider alternative job options and am looking at returning to the teaching profession. Unfortunately, this possibility would mean: my children not having mum at home/picking up from school, a waste of my money and time developing my childminding business, my families and mindees losing their childminder and having to find alternative care and (without sounding egotistical) Eastleigh losing a highly qualified and quality childcare provider.
    I realise that this decision has not been made by PACEY, but I’d like some more information about the decision. Firstly, why has this decision taken place at this particular moment in time? The childcare act, as quoted in your email, is dated 2006, what has changed?! Your email says ‘The DfE have clearly stated’, Where have they stated this? When did they state this? Secondly, does this rule apply to pre-schools or nurserys who have parents working for them? I’m assuming that a parent is unlikely to be their own child’s key worker, but in a small setting they are very likely to be contributing to their child’s EY education and care. What about if a parent owns or manages the pre-school or nursery? Are they allowed to claim for their child and thus benefit financially from them attending? I guess what I really want to know, which seems my only viable option right now, is if I employ an assistant and extend my business (which I’m planning for summer 2014) is can I then make my assistant my son’s keyworker and still claim for him? Thirdly, as a side note, I’d like to express my concern for the grandparent childminders out there and their working children who will be unable to claim their entitled EYE funding or not use the benefical childcare that is on their doorstep. It just seems absurd!
    I look forward to your reply and aplogise for the rant, but the whole situation has really touched a nerve.
    Regards,
    Carrie Merry

    • Thank you so much for posting your comment Carrie and for emailing PACEY. I hope if you get a reply, you will also post it here so others can see PACEY’s response. I have personally been in communication with Pacey and so they are aware of my views on this.

  6. I am a registered childminder in Poole, Dorset and have just received info regarding the withdrawal of 3/4 year old funding fir childminders own children.
    My son is due for his funding from 1st April 2014 which I was going to claim for him to stay at my setting. I currently childmind 2 other children who are 3 and they are all best friends. How can I possibly send him to another setting whilst the other 2 stay with me? What sort of message am I sending my own child?? How is that going to affect him??
    I am disgusted snd outraged!! It’s not even as though I can offer the place to anyone else because whether he is here or not he counts in my ratios. Regardless if this I couldn’t send my don elsewhere anyway. If the children I minded were younger then of course, it woukd did his development to be around peers of a similar age. But when they are all the same age and vest friends how can I exclude him and send him elsewhere??

  7. Why don’t you go to your local MP’s and try to get this ruling changed? You never know, you may be able to achieve this if enough people complain officially.

    • Thank you for your comment Patricia.

      A lot of people hve been trying to get this changed, but maybe not enough.
      I (and others) have found that writing to MP’s just means the MP writes to the Minister concerned and results in a letter promising to look into it. Writing direct to Ministers direct just gets a letter stating the government policy and why implementing it.

      The trouble with this sort of issue is it only directly impacts on people for a year or two, and only on a small percentage of people at any one time.
      However, membership organisations are continuing to represent childminders in discussions with government

  8. Did anything ever happen with this or are childminding grandparents still unable to receive early education funding? My mom looks after my boys and is a registered childminder, she looks after them in her home (which is not the same address as me and my boys) and she also looks after other children that are not related. My son is approaching the age where he can benefit from 30 hours funding. Half of this he can use at his preschool setting; the preschool is only open mornings so he still needs care in the afternoons while I am at work and I was hoping my mom could have him with the rest of the funded hours but I have been told she cannot receive the funding for my son. She looks after another boy who is the same age and he can go to her using the funding. How is that fair? Both my son and the other child have attended my mothers childminding setting from babies and now he gets funding to go there and my son does not. What can I do? Any advice or help would be great! There are no other childminders in my area that can have my son and I could not let my mom have my son for free because he is taking up a place in her setting that she could potentially be earning money from.

    • Another thought. Is there a petition going for this to changed? If there is please post ge details so I can sign and share! If there is no petition then I wonder if we could start one? Do you think this would work?

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