Dear Minister – I understand you might be ‘a little concerned’   13 comments

My letter to Elizabeth Truss ….. sent 11.2.14

Dear Minister,

I am very angry that you cancelled the round table talk with myself, other childminders and the main childminder representative organisations (and others), which had been organised at your request by UKCMA.
I am even more angry that because you have had a few negative emails and comments via social media today, that you then asked a member of staff to offer a meeting without you.
Why am I angry? Because of the complete lack of understanding that you demonstrate about childminding both in the way you think it appropriate to cancel and then try to rearrange meetings, and in the way you continue not to listen to the voice of the childminding sector.
For me to agree to attend the meeting – which was first set as Wed 12th February, I had to ask 2 parents to make alternative arrangements – resulting in inconvenience for them and a loss of income for myself. However this was acceptable as my co minder could care for the other children and remain within ratios.
But then you asked for the meeting to be rescheduled for Thursday 13th February, and  due to the days / hours that my co minder works, I had to take a decision to close my setting for the day. this meant a loss of income to myself of  around  £200  ( in additional to the loss already incurred for the original date)  – and inconvenienced another 6 parents
Despite the loss of income, I was happy to agree to meet with you, as this would have been an opportunity to to gain an understanding about why childminding agencies were needed and how they would reduce paperwork and costs for childminders, while achieving More Affordable childcare for parents Essential really, as despite letters, articles and blogs not only from myself but from many others our questions have not been answered
However you then cancelled the meeting – which meant that my personal loss of income was for nothing. You see Ms. Truss the parents had booked a day off themselves or arranged for grandparents to care for their child – and had received a reduce invoice for February – making it hard if not impossible to undo those arrangements.
So I was angry – and yes I did post about it on social media – WHY? because I have almost 200 letters written by childminders and parents that I was going to take with me to the meeting.
You may be interested to know that despite extensive requests on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin – not one letter is in favour of childminding agencies. You will of course say – well that is hardly a huge % of the number of childminders in the country – and I would agree – but what is very interesting is that although these letters are from all areas of the country, most of the writers of the letters say that they have yet to meet in person or communicate via social media with a single person in favour of childminding agencies.
Lets do some assumption based maths – I know maths are your strong point – there are not mine as I don’t have a GCSE (or O level) in maths – so please bear with me.
Lets say each of those 200 childminders cares for 10 different families, over a week – and they have discussed agencies and all the parents are against the idea – we would have 2,000 people against agencies. Now lets assume that each childminder also talks to 10 other childminders in her local town (there would usually be more) and each of those 10 other childminders has 10 families on their books and we are up to 22,000 against agencies – and lets assume each of those people has 10 social media friends and not one of them has expressed the opinion that agencies are a good thing  – and we are up to 220.000 people against agencies – remember that each of the people who have written a letter claim they have not met or communicated with a single person who is in favour of childminding agencies. I am sure you can do the maths and realise that actually the number of people against agencies is potentially huge.
My challenge to you is – please tell me how many people have expressed an interest in childminding agencies – and how many of those people are childminders or prospective childminders – and to be clear – I mean people who have been told how much it will cost to be in a childminding agency – NOT people who have taken part in the FREE trials and who have not even been told any details about future costs.
Getting back to the meeting – when I heard that you had instructed a member of staff to rearrange the meeting I was more than angry – how dare you assume that we can be told one day that the meeting is off and then the next day that the meeting was back on – only not with you?  We all have busy lives and as I had an unexpected child free day – I had made plans – which included seeing if I could arrange to talk to the media.
I do not want to talk to one of your staff members – I want to talk directly with you and to get answers to the many questions that I have.
As to a potential rearranging of the meeting in March – I can’t say at this moment in time if I will a) be able to afford to lose another days pay or b) if parents of the children will be able to make alternative arrangements.
I would continue with this letter, and respond to your letter to all childminders – but I have already done so via my blog …. and my childminding colleagues have already taken the time and trouble to write a letter to you – (and are now emailing these to you and commenting on your facebook page) , so there seem little point in adding to the collection of letters that you are very unlikely to read, and even less unlikely to understand our concerns – and extremely unlikely to actually STOP, LISTEN or CONSULT …or to drop your ideas and agree that childminding agencies are not wanted, not needed and won’t acieve the aims stated within More Great Childcare.
Almost two years of my free time, a loss of income of almost £1000 to attend meetings / cover travel costs to London – and for what? NOTHING
Oh but then again – not completely for nothing, as I have been able to build strong relationship with all 4 organisations that represent childminders, I have been able to provide information and raise concerns within the childminding community, and I have extended my own personal support network and friendships.
I hope that you are now beginning to realise that the childminding community have had enough – they are cross, they want you to listen and to understand their concerns. They want you to STOP the implementation of childminding agencies, they want you to LISTEN to their concerns and to CONSULT with them about alternative ways to achieve your admirable but completely unrealistic aims- as after all they do have a secure and in depth knowledge and understanding of childminding
Penny Webb
Registered Childminder

Posted February 11, 2014 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

13 responses to “Dear Minister – I understand you might be ‘a little concerned’

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  1. Hi Penny, written from the heart! When you get a minute (as if) and if you haven’t already sent it to ET, there are a few typos you might want to correct. I’m not nit-picking just want you to make as much impact as you can. I really felt for you today & it’s been fantastic to see the support rolling in. Chin up & forward march!

    • Thank you Rebecca

      I know you are not nit picking and are being supportive as you are well aware of my difficulties.

      I think Truss may well have occidentally caused childminders to say ENOUGH – because as you say the support is now rolling in, in the form of emails and social media fury at her complete lack of understanding of childminding and ability to listen to concerns expressed.

      She needs to understand that childminders are not against change, want to increase their professionalism, want to provide high quality care and education and want to explore ways to make childcare more affordable to PARENTS. However, she also needs to accept that childminding agencies will not achieve any of these aims, and therefore she needs to scrap the implementation of agencies – and consult fully with those who understand childminding before putting forward proposals that will achieve those aims.

      But then I don’t need to tell you this do I Rebecca – nor all the other childminders or childminding representative organisations – it is just the Government that don’t have a clue.

  2. If Ms Truss is brave enough to read this, then I need to point out one small error, I’m afraid, Penny, although I know you are trying to remain the true professional you are…. “Cross” is a total understatement – the majority (if not all) of our profession is FURIOUS at the total ignorance of the Minister with regards to listening to our representative groups and yourself. The total disregard to our (your) work commitments is unacceptable. It must be lovely to be in a such a position to cancel meetings, basically on a whim (or running scared?) – and if it is something important then why not say? We care for ALL members of ‘our’ families and give them ALL support when needed. It is about time that the Minister realises this is what we can do unlike Nursery provision. We build close relationships, which will disappear if childminders are under an agency.
    However I am still sitting in total disbelief that the Minister believes that one of “minions” can provide the answers to our questions, when she, herself, is unable to! If I am wrong, then why hasn’t she answered them already – with a comment other than “you don’t have to join if you don’t want to”…Please, Ms Truss – CHANGE THE RECORD!

  3. Keep at the minister and point out that they have failed on their duty of care to you and your industry in our democratic society. They be failed in meeting you as a “Customer” and been unprofessional, disrespectful and possibly even discriminatory.
    I am of the opinion you should make a claim for loss of income too.
    I know nothing of the scheme proposed but it sounds like yet another government activity designed to meddle with something that doesn’t need it ( unlike many areas of govt that are being ignored which do require attention) – you know flooding, national debt, etc etc).
    I would recommend shortening the letter if you are able as it’s well known politicians have short attention spans because their own egos crowd out other thoughts perhaps?
    Good luck!

  4. Well said Penny, I couldn’t have put it better myself, I hope Ms Truss takes this on board and we can move forward from this very draining situation! We want to be happy child minders, not ones who are continually being demoralised, downtrodden and generally worried about our future!
    (one who does have ‘A’ level Maths, a post grad in Business Management, and Horticulture qualifications, and backs you all the way!)…and of course the usual childcare qualifications!

  5. I am speechless! Your patience so far has been outstanding Penny! By cancelling the meeting in this way Ms Truss has demonstrated her complete lack of understanding of childminders’ (or any self-employed person’s) situation or commitments! I am glad that you have such wonderful support and thank you for all the time you devote, with their help, on behalf of those of us that are not able to do the same.
    I wonder if this is an attempt to stall until Ofsted’s ‘consultation’ (?!) is completed and/or the agency trials (?!) are considered. Your maths is great Penny, but her team are no doubt hoping to be able to spin some statistics from these to support their ridiculous plan. Clearly she has nothing to say at the moment and is not interested in listening or actual consultation.

  6. Fantastic letter Penny, thank you for being a strong voice for us all ! X

  7. I also have written to my mp but as yet have had no reply, but well done and well put

  8. Janet Pashley

    Brilliant letter Penny, you said it all. Unfortunately ‘consultation’ doesn’t seem to suit their agenda, I wonder why maybe because their arguments wouldn’t stand water if put to and answered by childminders who actually do the job

  9. Wow Penny, thanks for such a strong and passionate article. I cannot verbalise how angry I am at the governments blatant disregard for our industry. I’ve been a childminder for nearly ten years and feel very let down by the government, Ofsted and even NCMA or pacey (aaaaaah) another issue!!

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