I have been wondering …….. These childminding agencies………. What about the parents?   1 comment

My views and those of colleagues who have joined in with the campaign against childminding agencies,  are well known, and I have asked for those who are in favour of childminding agencies to make their views known, so that we can share information and have an informed debate.

However there is another very important group of people who have an important perspective on this issue and a vested interest that the government get this right. They are of course the PARENTS of the children who are currently using the services of a childminder and who may use a childminding agency in the future. Their vested interest of course being that of their child’s well being and development – and the impact on their take home pay.

Nearly all parents want the best care and education for their child or children (and the few that don’t have complex issues of their own, that prevent them from doing so). Choosing which early years setting to send your child to, is one of the most important – and difficult decisions to make.

Parents deciding on which childcare setting to use for the first time

There are always many considerations that parents have to think about before even starting to short list the childcare settings that they will then chose where to book a place for their child

  • WHO?                                   Registered Childminder?     Pre- school?      Nursery?   School based provision? Nanny?
  • HOURS?                              Full time? Part time?  Combination of different settings at different times?
  • WHERE?                            Near home?      Near work or place of study?    Near school that child will go to?
  • COST?                                 Total yearly cost?  What financial help is available?

These  questions help parents think about their options – and then most will start to visit settings and do some research about the places they visit, to help them decide which one to choose

  • Personal recommendation
  • Setting website
  • ‘Gut feeling’ during the visit

At the moment there are things in place which can help parents find the information they need and to make comparisons between settings

  • National and local databases of all Ofsted registered settings – many of which are free to use
  • An individual Ofsted report and grade for every early years setting – again free to access

However, as from September 2014, it is going to become far more difficult to make these comparisons and therefore to make an informed decision.

For nurseries and pre school and school based provision nothing will change BUT if parents are interested in finding out about and comparing childminders or want to visit all those with vacancies in their area, they are going to have to include another aspect – that of childminders registered with a childminding agency.

This is because from September 2014 childminders will no longer have to register with Ofsted by law – they can if they want to register with a childminding agency instead.

Parents may not think this is a big change – but it is because;

Childminders who register through an agency will no longer be inspected directly by Ofsted and will therefore not have an individual Ofsted report on the Ofsted website. Agency childminders will have the agency grade based on the agencies systems not the childminders practice

NB The childminding agency will be registered with Ofsted and hopefully there will be an agency Ofsted report available (I say hopefully because this has not yet been decided on as is part of the current consultation  on inspecting childminding agencies)

Agency childminders will be checked by agency staff, and reports / assessments will be available – but these will not be individually  quality assured directly by Ofsted

Parents may have to register with ALL the childminding agencies in their area to be able to have access to the names of the childminders registered with each agency.

NB I do not know this as a fact because there are no details yet – but it is a logical assumption that childminding agencies will be listed as the contact for the childminders registered with them, as one of the Governments aims for childminding agencies is that the agency will provide a matching service between childminder and parent.

If parents use a agency childminder they may have to pay a fee to the agency, in fact they may have to pay a fee just to be registered to access the agencies list of childminders

NB Again this is not known for sure – and it maybe that some agencies will  charge and some won’t – this is because the Government want agencies to be able to decide their own business model.

Childminding agencies may provide parents with just one or two names of childminders that ‘match’ and not give parents details of all the childminders with vacancies.

NB From experience, I know that often once parents and childminders have met and the parent viewed the childminding setting, through discussion the parents actual childcare needs are not the ones first mentioned – for example parent might say they want a 3 day place Mon, Wed, Thurs – but through discussion, it is established that this is not set in stone and when childminder says I could offer Mon, Tues, Friday – the parent says that is fine. OR the parent says they needs a late finish but forgets to say that only needs this one day a week, thus meaning a childminder who does not work after 6pm, might be willing to work late just one day a week, but with the agency matching service the parent may not have been matched with this childminder, as the childminders availability as recorded with the agency would say ‘does not work past 6pm’

Parents may not be able to decide for themselves which is the best childminder for their child, because the agency matching service will not be able to judge if parents and childminders will be able to work in partnership.

When deciding on which childminder to use, parents have to consider all the same things as they do if choosing a nursery for their child but they also have to decide if they personally like the childminder and feel they will be able to work closely with this person on all matters concerning their child – such as potty training, behaviour management, types of activities and experiences offered, outings and so on – and the childminder needs to consider the same things. This is because of the very individual service provided by childminders, and the essential positive relationship needed between childminder and parents.

Of course parents will not be ‘made’ to use a particular childminder BUT if parents can only afford to register with one agency, or if they are not aware of all the different childminding agencies  and Ofsted registered  childminders in their area with vacancies – they may make a decision based on ‘this one is the best match’ when in fact they may not have visited the childminder who is  the ‘best match’

And who is to say what might happen in the future, under the Governments aims of reducing paperwork and burden from childminders?

Parents may only have to visit the office of an agency, and be shown a brochure  or a powerpoint of the childminders with vacancies and get to chose from that selection without even meeting the childminder. Agencies could then complete paperwork including the contract with the parent, and just email the childminder the paperwork and the date / time that child will start at the setting.

However although these changes may make it more difficult for parents to compare agency childminders with Ofsted Registered Childminders and agency childminders with other early years settings – this is not the most worrying potential change that agencies could be responsible for

Childminding agencies are not Government funded – they will be provided either by local authorities (directly or indirectly), and will have to cover all costs from the fees they change parents and childminders, OR by companies that not only will have to cover their costs but will need to make a profit.

It is likely that childminders will have to pass the cost of being in a childminding agency onto parents. This is because childminders do not earn enough to absorb these extra costs (many earn less than the minimum wage)

There are very few details yet about the cost to childminders or to parents for being registered with a childminding agency, but most people can work out for themselves that to run an office, pay for staff to assess and monitor childminders through home visits, to provide training, to act as a matching service – all costs money and quite a lot of money.

Suggestions as to costs are a monthly fee of between £50 and £70 , a yearly fee of around £1,000, a pay as you use basis – all of which would increase costs to childminders – and therefore potentially to parents.

The other suggestion is based on a fee per hour, per child – and so a direct increase in costs.

NB The Government claim that childminding agencies will REDUCE the cost of childminding but so far has not supplied any details about how this will be achieved – other than reducing paperwork burden and time spent filling spaces (both of which without actual details can not be taken as fact)

Finally – what about parents who are already using a Ofsted Registered Childminder? If the childminder they are using decides to join an agency – will that parent have any choice about if they join the agency as a parent? Will they have to pay any increased fees because their childminder has chosen to join an agency? Will they have to agree to the agencies policies and procedures?


As always with my ‘I have been wondering … ‘ blogs, I have posed more questions that need answering – and so as always, I ask the Government or those taking part in the childminding agencies trails to respond and to provide those answers.

Childminding agencies are due to be fully implemented in September 2014 and we still do not know very much about costs, benefits, or  the different models that will be available.

I don’t want to join a childminding agency, but those that do need to be given the information NOW as with many childminders now booking in children for September 14 and beyond, many childminders starting to review their fees either for this April (new tax year) or September (new academic year), time is running out.

Posted February 2, 2014 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

One response to “I have been wondering …….. These childminding agencies………. What about the parents?

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  1. The devil is in the detail and as yet we have had no details about how agencies will actually work. Its disturbing that this major change is only a few months a way and yet we are totally in the dark and unable to make future plans for our settings and businesses. My registration is due for renewal in July, will I be able to renew it at the normal cost of £35? Or will I be ‘deregistered’ and expected to paid a hugely increased fee in September, or both? In will not be joining an agency, that is a given!

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