The clock is ticking ………. Just when will we get more details about childminding agencies   2 comments

Please note the bulk of this blog was written on Sunday before Truss sent her letter to childminders (letter will be referred to near end of this blog)

So February is here and we are a month nearer to September 2014, when childminding agencies are to be implemented. Just 8 months in fact for all the details to be known, for everyone to decide if they want to remain an Ofsted Registered childminder or become an agency childminder.

Agencies need to arrange for agency staff to be trained, for agency policies and procedures to be  written, for the training to be offered to childminders to be put in place, for fees to be set, for parents to be made aware of the choice they will have.

A lot really to happen in 8 months.- which in reality is more like six months due to lead in time and school summer holiday period.

But it not just agencies that need to put things in place

The Children and Families Bill needs to become law – and at the moment amendments are still being put forward and debated

Ofsted need to decide on the inspection criteria for childminding agencies – and they are currently consulting on this

Ofsted need to decide on the fees for registering childminding agencies and if the current fee to register with Ofsted as an independent Ofsted Registered Childminder will remain at £35 or if it will go up.

However, I think that the Government have overlooked the importance of  providing detailed information in time for registered childminders and parents to plan ahead.

Those who are not directly involved in childminding may not understand why myself and many others have been asking over and over again for the details about childminding agencies and the fee that Ofsted will charge to register as an independent childminder from September 2014.

It is all to do with planning both for childminders and for parents.

Established childminders usually review their fees either at the start of the new tax year – so April 2014 or the start of the new school year – so September 2014. New childminders will be trying to set their fees for the first time

And before childminders can review  or set their fees they need to know their costs .

For those who intend to remain independent – the Ofsted fee and training costs that are still unknown – they may stay more or less the same BUT they may rise to a level whereby the only way that an established Ofsted registered childminder can remain financially sustainable – would be to pass those extra costs on to parents.

For those who may be interested in joining an agency not knowing the details may explain why some are ‘sitting on the fence’ and not saying they want to join an agency because they don’t know if they will be able to afford to do so, they don’t know what they will be signing up to – and so the Government may unintentionally be preventing childminders from openly expressing an interest in joining an agency. No one is going to agree to anything – until they know what it is that they are agreeing to.

So things such as;

What will the cost be to join the agency? Do I have to pay this up front or are there monthly options?

What is included for that cost? and what is not included? Training, matching service? Insurance? Paperwork? How many home visits?

What will be the cost of anything not included in the fee?

What will my employment status be?

What about the parents already using my service? Will they have to pay anything to the agency?

How can any childminder who might be interested in joining an agency make their plans or keep parents informed or advertise for new clients?

And in the meantime things are coming up for renewal – and not just parents contracts – but things like membership organisations renewal, Ofsted annual fee, Insurance renewal (car, home and public liability), magazine subscriptions,  on line recording systems, vacancy advertising sites, rolling renewals for first aid and safeguarding training and more

Do the government think that childminders will just let these things lapse and hope that agencies are all that they hope they will be?

Do they think that childminders will just renew all these things and then in effect pay again through the agency?

And of course they need to know if there will be an agency or even a choice of agencies in their area?

Parents also have to know the details about childminding agencies sooner rather than later – they have to set their family budgets, they have to put in for their tax credits , some will be applying for jobs and needing to book childcare, some will have children started school in September and are already starting to look into costs and availability of school places.

So without the details about all the things mentioned above;

Parents are left not knowing and unable to make family plans / sort out family budgeting – or secure childcare as from September 14

Establish childminders will be left in a similar position not being able to set fees or to plan ahead

And new childminders will not have any idea what to do for the best – and so may do nothing – which in itself may create a drop in childminder numbers or at least a time gap where no new childminders register with Ofsted (as they will want to know their options first) and no one is able to register with a childminding agency yet.

If you ask me – a bit of a mess- but one that the Government could easily sort out just by publishing full details about childminding agencies and the cost to remain independently registered with Ofsted.

Then as mentioned at the beginning of this blog Ms. Truss issued a letter addressed  ‘Dear Childminders’ – so assuming she means all childminders, if you have not seen it yet this is the  LINK

For a few seconds until I had opened the letter, I was hopeful that we were finally going to get the details that we all need to make informed decisions about if childminding agencies are for us personally and the details to help us set our budgets and fees for the coming year when we renew our contracts / set up childminding.

But I was disappointed – there is no new information – not even a hint – just the same old statements that we have been given time and time again. Even the links to various other websites are not helpful as the information on them has not been updated – in a nutshell we are not  any more informed than we were before the letter.

Of course the pilots have not been formally evaluated yet, they are still debating about the Children and Families Bill, there are still meetings planned – including the one that I will be attending with Truss and all the main organisations that represent childminders, other individual childminders and ex childminders – and hopefully some of those involved with the trails

BUT the bottom line is – if we do not get the details soon – very soon there is going to be a lot of childminders who won’t be able to wait any longer for those details and therefore to decide if they want to join an agency, and therefore reduce the number of childminder who join agencies in the first year. Very soon childminders are going to have to try to make an educated guess about their costs and set their fees accordingly – but they could get it all wrong, very wrong – and either put fees up more than they have to and thus push the cost of childcare up – or not put them up enough and become unsustainable and possibly end up having to de-register and  thus reduce the number of registered childminders.

And those who have been honest and brave enough to publish their fees as an agency – thank you – but  I think until we have all the details from the Government and those who will be running the agencies there is still too much that is unknown.

Posted February 3, 2014 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

2 responses to “The clock is ticking ………. Just when will we get more details about childminding agencies

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  1. Penny, I just signed up this weekend to follow your blog posts. (I may be repeating myself here!) I am English, and a British trained teacher of the 3-7s, and have lived in the US for 41 years. The pitiful state of early childhood care and education in general here in the US has bothered me for years, more so when I’ve worked inside a daycare, even expensive ‘name brand’ ones. What you write about UK issues is a tragic state of affairs for all concerned and, as in this country, it shows how little the experts and those in politics know about the grass roots care of young children. Thank you – keep up the great work!

  2. I for one will not be able to afford to be part of an agency nor do I wish to take any part in supporting that idoiot Truss!!! Then again, I probably will not be able to affford to remain independent either! We all work extremely hard to keep our settings running smoothly – regularly training – updating first aid, child protection, food hygiene, updating that doggone SEF, advertising, networking, keeping paperwork up to date, nuturing, caring, planning, cooking, feeding, nose wiping, bottom wiping, hand wiping…….. the list is endless – for less than the minimum wage!!!!!! Why? Because WE CARE ABOUT CHILDREN. The government clearly does not and as for Ms Truss – a big fat raspberry to you dear!!!!!!!

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