Part ONE – WE ALL SAY ‘NO TO CHILDMINDING AGENCIES’ (and are wondering just who is saying ‘Yes’)   1 comment

I think anyone who has been following my blog will know that I am totally against Childminding Agencies – and although I have lots of reasons why I am against them – I do have one main reason – that agencies childminders will not have an individual Ofsted inspection – nor will they have a individual Ofsted report and grade.

 

So my views are well know – as are those of my colleagues who have taken the time to post comments on my blog site BUT the number of comments does not show just how many childminders are against childminding agencies nor are their reasons why known.

 

People may think that there are just a few people like me who are against agencies – and that the majority of childminders are in favour of childminding agencies but this is not the case.

I now have almost 200 letters written by childminders, their families, and the parents who use their childminding services – these are all printed and ready to take to London at the end of March to give to Elizabeth Truss at a meeting.

I do not have a single letter from anyone who is in favour of childminding agencies – despite asking many times for those in favour to get in touch with me.

The meeting at which I will be giving Truss the letters,  is the rearranged meeting (after Truss cancelled the previous meeting)  that all the organisations that represent childminders will be attending, ( each organisation will be taking one of their members with them), in addition there will those who have been taking part in the pilots of the agencies and some individuals such as myself.

It occurred to me that even if I give the letters personally to the Minister – there is no guarantee that she will personally read them – and no guarantee that anyone else will even be told that there are all these letters written by concerned childminders

And so, I have decided that I need to make sure that as many people as possible read these letters and the reasons why childminders are so against childminding agencies – and why they spend hours emailing and writing to the Minister, to the other MP’s, and to the Peers, and the Prime Minster, to magazines and newspapers.

PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO READ THE LETTERS – ALL OF THEM.

Be warned there are a lot of letters – as so far about 80 of the letter writers have given me permission to use their letters on in this blog – and so this blog will be in several parts with 10 – 15 letters per blog – and if anyone gives me permission after the blogs are  posted – the letters will continued to be added

From Julie Dodds

I am a childminder and have been so for the last 25 years, but the current thinking about agencies and how they are going to save money just passes me by.

I run my own home and family and business so know about balancing accounts and working to budgets etc, but how can having a middle man I.e. agency save anyone money and why will no one answer this question that many childminders are asking along with other questions .

In order for us to make an informed decision we need answers also to questions such as how much will an Ofsted inspection cost if we remain Independent.

I have had the highest grading available at each inspection since Ofsted became involved and I do not want to have my grade now dependent upon how well others in my area are doing or the agency I am signed up with this is just one huge step back not moving us forward.

I think there is some ulterior motive to all of these changes and I am sorry but its a vote of no confidence from me!!!!! We are all told we need to be open and transparent and as an Outstanding childminder my life revolves around giving the children in my care the post possible start I can, and their parents place them with me for that reason and for how I work. But I feel the powers that be are not themselves being open and transparent and we will find out the truth behind these changes further down the line.

Please re think these decisions and talk to the people who are on the ground floor doing this job. I have never had a job in all my working days where so may people feel they can tells us what we MUST do even though we are self employed running our OWN businesses.

From one very unhappy but determined childminder

And one from Julie’s  husband John

I have been a childminder for 25 years along side my wife and this has worked very well for us and the many many children we have cared for over those years.
We have never needed anyone to find clients for us, to set the fees for us, to plan our days for us, basically tell us how to work. The whole point of childminders is surely their uniqueness.
I cannot get my head around how the new system of agencies is going to save anyone money? Someone has to ultimately pay for the agencies to be run so who will that be? It has to be either the parents the childminders or the Government and this is one of the many questions childminders are wanting the answers to? You all seem to feel you can tell us how to run our own businesses then please treat us with respect and be open and give us the information we need to make decisions.
I am an outstanding self employed childminder who is proud of what I do and proud of the achievements of the children who have passed through our home and I DO NOT NEED OR WANT anyone telling me how to run my business but I also do not want to be seen as a second class option by parents if I do not join an agency, these changes need to allow it to be a level playing field for all.
From Susan Churchill
Dear Ms Truss

Thank you for your letter dated 3rd  February 2014. Although I personally haven’t received a letter myself. ( I’m sure it’s in the post )  I downloaded a copy from another childminder who very kindly put your letter on a childminding Facebook page for the very many childminders who also haven’t received your letter.

I live in South Gloucestershire where we were very fortunate in having an Outstanding Local Authority who looked on Childminding as a profession and childminders as professionals. We were offered a great deal of training and fantastic support. Newly registered childminders were offered mentoring  from existing childminders and we had a Quality Assurance Scheme where we and our practice were monitored and feedback given as to how we could improve, or praise when we did something well. So we could reflect on what we could do to improve outcomes for the children in our care.  It worked very well. I do believe that all childminders should be able to offer early education places but equally all childminders should be individually monitored to make sure that we are all working to the highest of standards that every child deserves. Because Every Child Matters.

You say that establishing yourself as a childminder can be a complex and time consuming process.   Well yes it can be, but I don’t think you should make it too easy for people to become childminders. Why?     Well because to run a successful childminding business, as well as being caring dedicated and having patience, you need to be hardworking, resilient, resourceful, and strong, to have stamina, tenacity the list could go on. It’s by dealing with Ofsted, local authorities,  accessing first aid and other training, sorting out insurance and memberships, sourcing toys and equipment, finding work, etc ,that test your mettle. Childminding is not an easy option. You need the right sort of people to become childminders.  Children only get one chance at childhood, and what they experience when they are young can stay with them all their lives. Children need love, care, and attention, to be in small groups with an adult who knows them well.

All childminders need to have an Ofsted inspection despite the inspectors being inconsistent in their judgements. (It would be good if somebody could address this problem)  It shouldn’t be just agencies being inspected, as childminders should be graded on their own practice.

I have yet to find out any official information that tells me how agencies will make More Affordable Childcare for parents. How much will it cost parents and childminders to join an agency? How will it work?  Nobody will answer a direct question with a direct answer.

My local authority in South Gloucester is piloting an agency and they tell us that they haven’t been given the answers to the many questions that we have! Well, why not? They should have by now!  Agencies are due to start in 7 months time. When are you going to give us all the information we need to make an informed choice?

The childminders who speak with One Voice and wish to remain as Independent Childminders wonder if we choose not to join an agency how difficult you will make it for us to remain so?

I would also like to say to you that I really believe that you haven‘t the smallest idea of how childminders work and what we do in a very long and busy days work. You need to spend time at least a full day or more working with a childminder in her home from start to finish, no cameras  no PR stunt to get a true picture of what we do and what we mean to families.

You need to talk to childminders and listen to what we have to say. We may surprise you.

Sadly I expect that you won’t even see this letter or the many hundreds that are being sent to you and being collected by Penny Webb who campaigns tirelessly on our behalf, or if you do see some letters you will ignore what we say.

Have you read our posts on your Facebook page? Sadly I think not.

I feel you should know that you will lose a lot of very experienced childminders if you continue to ignore us, and that the rest of us will not give up without a fight. We will not go quietly.

From Karen Wade 

Dear Ms. Truss,
I am a childminder working in Birmingham.  I have been registered for ten years and I have cared for many children during that time. I am writing to express my considerable concern about your childminding agency initiative.
Firstly I am appalled at the lack of consultation that has taken place with actual childminders. I have yet to find one single childminder who supports the agency model and I come into contact with many others at  local childminder network meetings, childminding groups and also as a member of various professional online groups and sites.
Secondly, I challenge your assertion that agencies will reduce costs for childminders and childcare fees for parents. This is simply impossible and you have yet to definitively state how you see this happening. It will in fact see costs rise as agency fees and Ofsted inspection fees / training for independent childminders will need to be recouped from somewhere and the only way to do so will be to increase hourly rates to parents.
Thirdly, the quality issue – agency childminders will no longer be individually inspected they will automatically receive their agencies overall grading. You say that agencies and a sample of their childminders will be inspected by Ofsted instead, surely this is a serious safeguarding loop hole? How do you know for sure that each and every setting is of the same quality as the agency grading? There will be zero Ofsted visits, zero LA visits, zero peer support visits for a vast majority all will be replaced by a member of agency staff visiting. This is of great concern to me, I can guarantee that the vast majority of childminders who do eventually join an agency will be either newly registered (they will assume there is no other option as LA support and entry way into childminding is pulled) or substandard (wanting to stop Ofsted inspections and cant get business due to reputation).
Experienced, passionate, dedicated and effective childminders will most definitely not join an agency. Why pay fees to have our hard earned individual Ofsted grading stripped from us, our reputation and word of mouth recommendations will no longer matter as parents are ‘matched’ with us by the agency, pride in our setting and the services we offer disappears as there is no longer any incentive to better our beloved own small business. You are going to end up with agencies filled with inexperienced and less than committed childminders, is that what you really want? This is not what parents want at all!  I haven’t even begun to talk about the 2 yr funding which in your words should be in high quality settings, how will this be proven under the agency model?
Finally, I have read your letter, that is going out to all childminders, and would ask that you at least credit us with some intelligence, simply rolling out the same party lines without answering any of our real concerns is extremely patronising and shows what little grasp of our professional field you have. You cannot keep ignoring a tidal wave of opinion like this.
From Annelize and Christo Cruz

Dear Ms Truss
I am a mother, childminder and owner of the ‘Free Range Childcare’ service – raising awareness of childminding and connecting parents with minders. I wanted to reply to your letter sent out to childminders as well as recent articles about children, childcare and school.

I am horrified at all the plans for our children who should be allowed to be just that, children. Proposals for a younger entry age to schooling, longer days and fewer holidays benefit no one other than the government and only the government of today, not even the government of the future.

The suggestion that children should be in a school environment from age two is shocking to say the least. There is a huge body of research showing that most children aren’t emotionally ready to be cared for outside their family until age three. A baby’s stress hormone (cortisol) levels can be measured in their saliva. Studies show that cortisol readings for children that attend a nursery were double those of children cared for at home.

We do know it is not always possible for children to receive care by their parents and due to some family circumstances this might not always be best for the child. However, surely the next best option would be for the child to still be in a home environment but cared for by a registered childminder.

These two year olds that you feel need to go to school due to family circumstances need to be in a small group, cared for by one or two loving adults in a home environment where they can be loved, read to and played with, given lots of attention, be listened to and be talked to with care and respect. These children need a loving family environment with the additional benefit of a trained carer to help and support these children to reach their full potential. This can be
offered by a Registered Childminder.

In a childminder setting they will be in a home environment, get to go on regular outings, offered long term care including care even after they start school. Surely children will benefit more from this, especially the ones who need the free entitlement for 2 year olds.

I understand that one of the other reasons you want schools to take on two year olds is due to the shortage of childcare spaces for this age group. Through my work I am in regular contact with a huge number of childminders across the UK with spaces to offer two year olds receiving funding. There are also plenty of mums who do not want to leave their little ones to return to work, who could be trained and supported to become childminders. And then if there
are still shortages for two year olds, why not take the money that is given to the trailing schools to expand and instead off it to existing settings like nurseries and children’s centres?

Many schools do not even have the room for their reception-age children but now need to make room for two year olds too?

We should be thinking about our children, not the adults, not the economy, not our own personal feelings but what is best for our children. We can see other European countries where children don’t start formal education until age six or seven perform much better than children who start at four and five in the UK, yet we are ignoring all of this.

Look at the Steiner approach and how well those children perform. I would also suggest looking at the video by Sir Ken Robinson on education to get a better understanding of what we are currently doing to our children. After all if you are going to test a fish by its ability to climb a tree he will go through his whole life thinking he is stupid and can’t achieve anything. Do we really want this for our children?

I am also totally against the idea of agencies as this will benefit no one. It’s said that it will save everyone money but surely they will be a company that will need to charge for their services. We all know when cutting out middle men you save money so surely by adding a middle man it will cost everyone more money? I also feel as a childminder that I have worked hard to run my own business and make sure my business performs well, develops and grows. I do not
need to join an agency to carry on doing this. I would also much rather keep my independent inspection with Ofsted, as this will solely judge me and how I am doing as a childminder instead of what an agency are doing. I have been receiving some great support and training from my local Council and have been able to offer the two and three year old funded places.

It is also said that agencies are there because not all childminders can currently access support. Well if childminders truly want support there are plenty of places they can get this from. There are still some local authorities offering support, companies like PACEY, local childminding groups and childminders supporting each other on social networks and forums.

Yes, surely new childminders will join agencies as they will see this as the easy option where they are fed information without having to work hard and be passionate about making their own business successful. The childminders who do not like to be inspected by Ofsted might also join as they will see it as an easy option to opt out of being inspected. But shouldn’t it be about raising the type of Early Years care on offer?

I for one will stay independent as long as I can afford to and when I am forced to join an agency because I can’t afford to stay independent or it becomes compulsory, both me and my husband will be looking for new employment. It is said that there are shortages for 2 year olds, yet by introducing agencies we will lose some amazing childminders and it might even increase the amount of people providing unregistered care. Please do not change something that’s
been working.

From Carol Harris

Dear Ms Truss

I am a childminder working in Birmingham, West Midlands. I have been a childminder for 26 years and feel very strongly about not joining an agency for childminders.

I am very unhappy that we as childminders know practically nothing about how you intend to let these agencies run, and very worried that I will no longer be self employed, where all my decisions about who and when I mind they will decide for me.

It has taken me many years to build up my good reputation with ofsted inspections and recommendations from others. I cannot see how an agency can see which are good childminders and which ones aren’t.

My parents are also against agencies and feel this will be another scheme which is a complete waste of government money.

I have gained NVQ III in Childcare along with many other qualifications and feel you do not understand what we as childminders have to do on our own during our working day.

You cannot ignore what we childminders really want.

From Lisa Edwards

Dear Ms Truss,

I am a childminder working in West Yorkshire and am writing to express my considerable concern about your childminding agency initiative.

Firstly I am appalled at the lack of consultation that has taken place with actual childminders. I have yet to find one single childminder who supports the agency model and I come into contact with many in my role as peer support adviser, local childminder network meetings, managing a local cooperative childminding group and also as a member of various professional online groups and sites.

Secondly I challenge your assertion that agencies will reduce costs for childminders and childcare fees for parents. This is simply impossible and you have yet to definitively state how you see this happening. It will in fact see costs rise as agency fees and Ofsted inspection fees / training for independent childminders will need to be recouped from somewhere and the only way to do so will be to increase hourly rates to parents.

Thirdly the quality issue – agency childminders will no longer be individually inspected they will automatically receive their agencies overall grading. You say that agencies and a sample of their childminders will be inspected by Ofsted instead, surely this is a serious safeguarding loop hole? How do you know for sure they each and every setting is of the same quality as the agency grading? There will be zero Ofsted visits, zero LA visits, zero peer support visits for a vast majority all will be replaced by a member of agency staff visiting.

This is highly concerning, I can guarantee that the vast majority of childminders who do eventually join an agency will be either newly registering (they will assume there is no other option as LA support and entry way into childminding is pulled) or substandard (wanting to stop Ofsted inspections and cant get business due to reputation).

Experienced, passionate, dedicated and effective childminders will most definitely not join an agency. Why pay fees to have our hard earned individual Ofsted grading stripped from us, our reputation and word of mouth recommendations will no longer matter as parents are ‘matched’ with us by the agency, pride in our setting and the services we offer disappears as there is no longer any incentive to better our beloved own small business?

You are going to end up with agencies stuffed with inexperienced and less than committed childminders, is that what you really want? It’s not we as a profession or parents want.

I haven’t even begun to talk about the 2 yr funding which in your words should be in high quality settings, how will this be proven under the agency model?

Finally I have read your letter that is going out to all childminders and would ask that you at least credit us with some intelligence, simply rolling out the same party lines without answering any of our real concerns is extremely patronising and shows what little grasp of our professional field you have.

You cannot keep ignoring a tidal wave of opinion like this.

From Amanda Wilkins

Dear Mrs Truss,

I am a childminder, I have an NNEB qualification and have worked in many childcare settings over the years including day nurseries and as a room leader in a pre school. I can honestly say that childminding is one of the most challenging jobs I have ever had, I do more paperwork and activities than I have ever done in any role. I am very proud of my job, I have worked very hard over the last few years to set up my business and build a good reputation in my area. I am horrified at your agency plan. It is ill advised and will help neither parents or childminders. I have just had a baby myself so will only have space for one full time child when I return to work as I have a toddler too. There is no way I will be able to afford agency fees earning such a small amount. The cost will have to be passed on to parents. We already receive support from our local authorities (which is being cut left, right and centre!) so don’t need agencies for this. Childminders need individual inspections to maintain standards and ensure the safety of children, this will not happen with agencies. I am not even going to address the ludicrous plans to push our two year olds into schools and the strange desire to keep our children in schools for stupidly long days! Anyone with basic childcare knowledge knows how detrimental these moves would be for our young people.

I do not and will not support your agency plan.

From Karen Warhurst

Dear Ms. Truss

 

I am replying in response to your letter to all childminders, and your persistent contribution on your negative attitude to the professional role of Ofsted Registered childminders in this country.

 

I have been a professional childminder for 9 years now, as well as a mum of 2, with a son who has mild ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder, if you weren’t sure).

Whilst childminding I have gained Level 3, Level 4, Level 5, equivalent to Foundation degree in Early Years, as well as continuous courses to enhance my knowledge in ensuring the continuity and welfare of every child is being met, and to better myself, within the early Years sector.

 

I agree that childcare CAN be expensive, looking from a parents point, but from a providers point, we are below the minimum wage once all household bills, National insurance, and wear and tear on our property has been taken out.

 

I feel that your other idea of Agencies within the childminder sector is wrong. There are many reasons for this, such as: costing, grading/inspections, safeguarding, becoming a 2 tier system.

 

Registered childminders are unique, personal; provide a motherly, home from home environment. I for one am very maternal, and proud to be a childminder, and I know from my parents as well, that we want to stay graded on my own merits, and with my own special unique ways.

 

Why should we have to fight for our roles, why should we have to fight all this negativity in the media, why do you feel the need to follow other countries, change, and turn our profession upside down? It is bad enough the DfE changing the goalposts regularly, losing childminders to the negativity, no consistency in Ofsted inspections, “I mean being marked down because there were no “windmills” in the garden” (a minder elsewhere). Why the government cannot let childminding run like it used to when under Social Services.

Looking forward to the day, when yourself, Michael Gove, and other sectors of Parliament, take on the role of a childminder and are a parent, wife at the same time whilst doing accounts, paperwork, planning, tidying, preparing resources for the following day, once the contracted children have gone home.

Awaiting a response, positive response, from parliament, that will work in favour of childminders.

A very angry, frustrated professional childminder

From Jennifer Withers

Dear Ms. Truss

 

I am replying in response to your letter to all childminders, and your persistent contribution on your negative attitude to the professional role of Ofsted Registered childminders in this country.

 

I have been a professional childminder for 9 years now, as well as a mum of 2, with a son who has mild ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder, if you weren’t sure).

Whilst childminding I have gained Level 3, Level 4, Level 5, equivalent to Foundation degree in Early Years, as well as continuous courses to enhance my knowledge in ensuring the continuity and welfare of every child is being met, and to better myself, within the early Years sector.

 

I agree that childcare CAN be expensive, looking from a parents point, but from a providers point, we are below the minimum wage once all household bills, National insurance, and wear and tear on our property has been taken out.

 

I feel that your other idea of Agencies within the childminder sector is wrong. There are many reasons for this, such as: costing, grading/inspections, safeguarding, becoming a 2 tier system.

 

Registered childminders are unique, personal; provide a motherly, home from home environment. I for one am very maternal, and proud to be a childminder, and I know from my parents as well, that we want to stay graded on my own merits, and with my own special unique ways.

 

Why should we have to fight for our roles, why should we have to fight all this negativity in the media, why do you feel the need to follow other countries, change, and turn our profession upside down? It is bad enough the DfE changing the goalposts regularly, losing childminders to the negativity, no consistency in Ofsted inspections, “I mean being marked down because there were no “windmills” in the garden” (a minder elsewhere). Why the government cannot let childminding run like it used to when under Social Services.

Looking forward to the day, when yourself, Michael Gove, and other sectors of Parliament, take on the role of a childminder and are a parent, wife at the same time whilst doing accounts, paperwork, planning, tidying, preparing resources for the following day, once the contracted children have gone home.

Awaiting a response, positive response, from parliament, that will work in favour of childminders.

A very angry, frustrated professional childminder

From Ruth Denton

 

Dear Ms Truss

 

Following your letter addressed to all Childminders in England dated 3rd February 2014 I find myself writing to you once again and this time I really hope you read my letter carefully, take account and take action.

 

My letter is lengthy as I have a number of points to make.

 

AGENCIES

 

Childminders not being individually inspected by Ofsted when working under and agency, is my main concern.  An inspector looking at paperwork, has no real way of knowing how each Childminder within the agency is practicing.  You cannot get a feel for the Childminder’s bond and relationship with the children in their care by looking through their paperwork. Point 3.26 of the Statutory Framework for the EYFS clearly states that the ‘key person’ should offer a ‘settled relationship for the child and build a relationship with their parents’.  This needs to be observed in detail by an Ofsted inspector to make sure this statutory element is being achieved by the Childminder.  Will agency officers have the same qualifications and knowledge as an Ofsted Inspector?   This is clearly part of the statutory requirements that needs to be observed, and therefore Childminders who are not inspected under the agency may not have ‘settled’ children and are therefore breaking the law.

 

I have gained the outstanding grade twice and am fully aware of the requirements and extra effort needed to gain Outstanding.  I feel it is completely unfair that an agency may be awarded the outstanding grade without each Childminder being inspected by Ofsted.  The equivalent is me gaining the outstanding grade the next time, without actually having an inspection, just emailing some of my paperwork to an inspector – this would never happen.  Please can you answer my question: Why should some Childminders under an agency be exempt from Ofsted inspection? As this is the reality of the current proposals, a two-tier non-inclusive, unfair system.

 

So far, the government has already wasted money on the agency proposals, really without any proper consultation with those who are in the profession.  My understanding is that agencies were put in place to reduce paperwork for Childminders and make childcare more affordable for working parents. Please can you explain in exact detail how an Agency will save on paperwork for a Childminder and money for a parent?  Nowhere have I seen a sensible answer.

 

I do not know if you are fully aware of the Early Years Foundation Stage, but the main ethos is working really closely with young children, following their interests, planning around their interests and working closely in parent partnership sharing all information about their child to benefit the child.  We are not nannies, working in our own home makes us very different.  The paperwork and approach around this framework involves a huge amount of time, effort and administration.  I’ve looked through all my systems and there are few I could pass over to an agency.  I have a huge list of daily tasks and paperwork that the agency could not possibly do, so I really do not see what the Agencies will be doing, other than making money out of those parents and new Childminders with no experience.

 

Childminding is a unique part of the childcare sector and is not suited to the Agency model. Time and money will be wasted in trying to match parents to Childminders.  I think you will appreciate as a parent that the choices made for your children need to be yours for your own unique reasons, the agency will not always understand your needs or be able to match personalities.  Parents will probably be expected to pay for this service when there is an option to do it themselves with no cost.  I know which one I would choose!!

 

I have been fortunate enough recently to be in contact with Childminder equivalents in Australia.  They work under ‘schemes’, which are agencies.  The general feeling amongst the Childminders seems to be unhappiness, the ‘schemes’ keep changing their rules and costs etc, therefore taking away the Childminder’s autonomy – is this really what you want to happen to childcare settings in our country.  We are already under the jurisdiction of the EYFS and Ofsted, why do we need yet another agency with another set of rules?

 

FUNDING

 

You mention that Childminders with a Good or Outstanding can claim the funding for children in their care.  I took the decision to do this as a Network Childminder in 2012, I was one of the small percentage of Childminders who filled in numerous forms going through assessment and visits from my local Network Co-ordinator.  Following all this extra work, my rate of hourly pay received for the particular child in question was reduced by £1.16 per hour.  I went through this process as I think parents should be able to get their free sessions and secondly if I had not have offered the funded sessions, the parent may have taken her business elsewhere.  Every time I provide the funded sessions for a child, I am taking a reduction in my income – do you think this is acceptable?  If I have 3 funded children it amounts to £11.22 per hour for all three – my expenses are usually around half of my income, this makes my actual hourly rate £5.61, less than the minimum wage.  Would it not be easier to condense the voucher scheme, Nursery Education Funding, and Tax Credits into one payment direct to childcare settings?  This would raise the profile and income of those working in early years.

 

My youngest daughter is currently 3 and for the last 2 terms I have been able to claim funding for hours she is in my setting.  She is counted on my numbers and therefore limits my income, so this extra funding was great to receive.  I now understand that I am no longer allowed to claim for her because she is my own child.  Also Childminders looking after grandchildren, nieces and nephews will NOT be able to claim for them.  When I am working, my daughter is treated exactly the same as the children in my care who are not my own, she uses the same resources, goes on the same outings and I keep a file on her development. Can you please explain why I now cannot receive her funded hours and to receive them have to send her to another early years setting, which means all the children in my care have to be involved in taking and collecting her??  This was the first time in 13 years of Childminding that I have ever been able to claim for my own child.  It certainly did not last very long.  This is an area you should reconsider, you may potentially lose many Childminders, who are Parents and Grandparents.  Why should a parent who works in a nursery or preschool where their own child attends be able to claim for the setting they work in, when I cannot?  I would be grateful for a logical explanation of this.

 

WORKING WITH SCHOOLS

 

You mention in your letter that you wish to encourage Childminder’s working with schools, which I interpret as perhaps using their larger facilities for before and after school care and holiday care.  I would like to know, have considered the age group and reason parents of very young children choose a Childminder?  I currently care for a baby, a two year old and a three year old, I do not think their parents would want them receiving some of their care from within a school classroom.  Knowledge of children in the early years builds an understanding of the small ratios needed and close bond with one key person.  Also needed are resources such as high chairs, booster chairs, changing mats, potty, toilet seat, sterilizing equipment, the list is endless – a baby or young child being present in an after school club would just not work.  This option would only suit Childminders who only provide before and after school or holiday care and most parents have chosen a Childminder for the home environment where a child can feel relaxed and at home.

 

NUMBER OF CHILDMINDERS FALLING

 

You keep mentioning in all your literature around agencies how the number of Childminders has fallen.  You never mention how the number of Nurseries has increased.  I am fully aware that with the qualification I hold, if I owned or worked in a Nursery, between the hours of 8am and 4pm I could operate on the ratio of 1:13 3 year olds.  My hourly income would be £48.62 less expenses under these ratios.  My ratios as a Childminder are 1:3 so I get £11.22 per hour, less my expenses.  Under no circumstances would I ever want to look after 13 x 3 year olds – in my personal opinion these ratios do not offer the correct care for this age group.  However I am sure many Nurseries are using these ratios to make money for the proprietor.  I believe this is one of the main reasons the number of Childminders has fallen as the demand for Childcare is less as parents are choosing Nurseries.  Also I believe when the early years and later years registers were introduced, many Childminders who were still registered but not Childminding were then deleted off the system resulting in a drop in Childminders.   Finally the burden of the EYFS may have been the reason that many Childminders gave up.  Part of being a Childminder under the EYFS involves many hours in the evenings and weekends keeping up with paperwork and some understandably did not want this.

 

 

OPINIONS

 

I have leadership and management training.  One of the first things I learned was consulting people throughout change and always being hands on, being able to do the tasks of the workforce.  I have not seen any clear evidence that you have visited and spent time with Childminders in this country to get a feel of how we operate.  Surely to make decisions on an area in the childcare sector you should firstly do your research, working with those who do the job every day??

 

You must now be aware that most of the sector does not approve of your proposals.  I think all professionals in this sector would appreciate if you actually listened and acted on the sector’s view, not your own view.  In the past my opinion of this government was one which supported small businesses.  You have caused thousands of small businesses to feel failed, let down and as though the government are making it harder and harder for us to carry on in business.

 

Childminders are mostly self-sufficient, in work and helping parents stay in work.  It seems ludicrous that any government would put in place measures to make this harder.

 

My final point is that the well-being of the youngest children in our country could be compromised, these children are our future, embarking upon their first years in our world.  Please take the time to really consider, have you put the children’s well-being as a priority in all your proposals?  Would you put one of your own children with an agency Childminder knowing they may never be inspected by Ofsted?

 

I look forward to receiving your answers to my questions in due course.

 

From Hazel Clark

Dear Ms Truss,
I am an OFSTED Registered Childminder working in the High Peak area of Derbyshire. I have been registered since 2001.
 
Having just received and read your letter that you have  so kindly sent to every registered childminder. Your letter still does not answer any of our real concerns regarding Agencies. Perhaps if you had sent a letter to all childminders asking if they wanted to support and join an agency, outlining implications, costs to both parents and childminders and how indeed agencies will cut costs to both, then you would of realized that there is NO demand by any childminder that I know or have met that want to join or support your agencies!
 
I will NOT be joining one of your proposed agencies and will remain an INDEPENDENT Childminder……………or I will not remain in the profession I have become passionate about, actively campaigning against the introduction of your ludicrous idea of agencies. 
 
My letter is short and blunt because I do not have the time and patience for your nonsense regarding agencies.

 

From Julie Nangle

Dear Ms Truss
I have been a Registered Childminder for 15 years and in that time I have looked after 64 children (all ages).  In that time, I have had two outstanding graded inspections from Ofsted, after they started the grading, have been in the Quality Assured Childminding Network and insured by the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY), previously the National Childminding Association (NCMA).
I started childminding when my daughter was a baby and wanted to be a childminder to work independately and not be employed by anyone else.  I then progressed by attending lots of training, completed my NVQ Level 3 and have just finished my Foundation Degree in Early Years, which i will be graduating next month.  I am presently on a BA course, so this will be 5 years of studying with The Open University.  I chose to do it with the OU so I could still childmind.
I do not see the logic in having an Agency for childminders, especially the ones who have managed without one for many years; some childminders have managed for 30/40 years.
There used to be Support Childminders to help new childminders to start, which worked well, so was unsure why it stopped.
As you quoted:
Childminders are the preferred option for many parents, offering an affordable, flexible, and home-based environment. The number of childminders has, however, declined in the last twenty years. In some areas there is a shortage of childminders and not all childminders are able to access support to help them deliver high quality care for children.
.
So if childminders are the preferred option, in how they are running their business, then why change it?
The number of childminders has reduced since the start of the Early Years Foundation Stage framework (2008), as there was more paperwork to do and less actually caring for the child, I would have thought the care and attention for the child came first.  The number also reduced because of ‘changes’.  The EYFS (2012) then came out, with more changes.  Throughout the years, childminders had other childminders for support, for advice and help in need of ‘back up’ childminders in the case of illness etc.
I wish to stay Independant, as have done for 15 years and cannot see how an Agency could help me.  Also what will happen to childminders who wish to stay independant, will it be made more difficult for us to stay independant?
From Vicky Read

Dear Ms Truss

 

After much consideration, I have written to you, (once again) in response to your blanket letter to all childminders.

 

Let me introduce myself, I am Vicky Read, registered childminder of eleven years.  In this time my passionate and dedication for childminding has not diminished  in fact just the opposite, it has grown.   During this time, I have worked closely with my local authority and its most excellent networks providing services and support to disadvantaged and vulnerable children and their families via local schemes and the 2 year old pilot.  I have studied to degree level (along with other CPD), whilst running a business and being a mother and wife. I have become heavily involved in the support schemes to help new and existing childminders achieve their full potential, whilst keeping in mind they are a home based setting.  This is an area I feel extremely passionate about.  I have developed excellent links with other settings and professionals in the community, enabling families to access and get the help and support they may need.  I am also able to provide care and learning via the FFE.

 

All of this has been achieved through my own hard work, dedication and working closely with the existing local authority provisions.

 

Let me make this extremely clear, I do not, nor will I ever want  or support childminder agencies.  I do not agree with them and I see no need for them.  What I see is the government recognising what was already there and enabling those networks to grow and to put in place networks for those in areas where there were none.  I will remain independent until I am unable too and then I will find alternative work.  I started working as a minder as an independent, sole trader, self employed person, running my business in the manner it suited me and I intend to finish that way.  I have seen plenty of minders in my decade plus run successful business – even without the aid of a network support (but offered general LA support).  Of course I have seen plenty of minders stop minding but often that was because minding was not for them.

 

I do not understand how your proposed agencies will enable or help parents, children or childminders.  Introducing a middle man certainly will not reduce costs to clients.  We are months of the introduction, that was going ahead regardless and the vague nature of your proposal is still astounding and glaringly obvious,  We are months away from your ill thought out proposals and there is still no news about these agencies nor how independent minders will be catered for.  Not only have you NOT listened to the childminders of this country you are also unable and unwilling to provide adequate information.  This is unacceptable and incompetent.

 

I have actively campaigned against these proposals and have yet to speak with ONE childminder who is actually in favour.  Can you answer how many you know of who are in favour?

 

You, yourself state in your letter that childminders are an ‘affordable, flexible’ option for parents.  Yes we are, so why do you think that the introduction of agencies will help what is already on offer?

The number of minders have declined over the years for many reasons, not just the meagre ones you  quote.  Again the solution to lack of minders in the area is re-introduce GOOD robust networks using the resources you already have, re-introduce a small grant where applicable to enable people to set up their business, re-introduce a robust buddy system.

Above all, show your support of childminders by advertising us as an equivalent to nurseries and pre-schools.

 

With regard to the 3-4 year old funding and the lack of uptake by minders – this is because many, like myself are reluctant to take on a child at less than what their actual fee is.

 

You want to remove the burden of paperwork – how?  Will agencies do the minders paperwork or be exempted from EYFS?

 

Enabling the creation of more childminders;  how will the agency reduce the time and complexity of registering as a minder?  The time and complexities are there for a reason- to ensure suitable persons and premises, so the minder understands what is entailed.  And for ALL businesses there are start up costs.

Perhaps you should turn your attentions to those nurseries that spring up – get closed down for bad practice and then re-open under a different name – yet its the same person.

Everything you are suggesting that an agency will do WAS ALREADY IN PLACE in form of people’s local authorities and networks.  Yet the government started reducing funding to these and the staff.  You are being hypocritical and contradictory.

 

You say agencies will help minders fill their spaces – how?  I don’t want to be matched with clients, I want to be able to choose my own clients.  There are highs and lows in filling spaces, so how will the agency support a minder through the lows?  Clients can’t be produced out of thin air if there are none seeking care – as the situation is in my area currently.

 

You say, joining an agency will be voluntary – for how long? Until you decide that your proposals are a success (whether they are or not) and that ALL minders have to be an agency minder?

Frankly the way you and this government have behaved – ignoring petitions and campaigns, not understanding minding and its essence, I do not trust you.

 

It feels that is so many questions so little time.

 

You say that you want to help minders to decide what works best for us?  So listen to us, now, before its too late and you either make minders extinct or leave us in a complete and utter dire mess.

Your working with schools point, many many minders already work closely with local schools and other settings.

Please listen to us, please work with us instead of riding rough shod over us. You are treating us with utter contempt, hardworking dedicated business people. We are not adverse to driving up standards, in fact we embrace higher standards but this is NOT the way to achieve it.

Please, before its too late Ms Truss – talk to us and hear what we are saying

 

From Maxine Francis

Dear Ms Truss,

So you have finally made contact with all the childminders in the country to inform us about Childminder Agencies.
I for one will not be joining an agency, I doubt if I am alone in this too.
I cannot see how introducing childminer agencies will make chilcare more affordable for anyone but the govenment.  Childminders will have to pay to be part of an agency and this in turn will be passed onto parents, as part of ther fees.  Parents may have to pay to get a childminder from an agency, so it will cost them more.  The government however are withdrawing the support recently given to childminders to help improve outcoems for children and families.
It will also save money in inspection fees for the government becasue Ofsted will not have so many individual childminders to inspect.  But I am sorry to say that this may not be the case, becasue there are so many childminders you will be staying independent.
Please feel free to visit our group in Stafford and talk to us about agencies and hear what we have to say about being independent.

 From Jean Kemp

Dear Ms Truss

I write as an outstanding childminder, with over 25 years’ experience in response to your open letter to childminders.

I welcome the fact that it is easier to obtain funding for 2, 3 and 4 years olds and have successfully applied but I would like to point out that some local authorities will not fund children related to a childminder. I feel this is completely wrong, all children should be eligible for the funding from an eligible provider and should not be discriminated against. I hope you can address this problem.

I feel that this letter gives new information and does not give us any grounds to make an informed decision on whether to join a childminder agency.

I believe the reason for so many childminders leaving the profession is the amount of paperwork we now need to provide with regard to the EYFS. I acknowledge that we do not have a statutory obligation to complete extensive learning journeys but Ofsted inspectors ask for proof of development and still expect these to be provided. I spend a minimum of 5 hours a week completing these and CPD.

You mention the £800 start-up costs but fail to mention that many local authorities ask for planning permission at over £500 which is prohibitive for many prospective childminders, perhaps you could also address this problem.

We have no indication of the costs involved. Adding a middle man that without government funding will not provide affordable childcare. Either parents will have to pay the agency or it will be funded by childminders. If I have to pay then my fees will have to increase to cover my loss of earnings.

You state that agencies will provide training courses but my local authority already provides excellent courses enabling me to meet other professionals from nurseries an pre-schools and provides excellent opportunities for networking. A childminder agency will segregate us from our colleagues in other settings.

You state that agencies will be able to provide cover for parents, but is this what parents want, for their child to be sent to another childminder who they have never met and has no knowledge of their child? All our children have an extensive settling in programme so that they can feel safe and secure and so that we can provide the best possible care for that individual child.

We are not told whether agency childminders will have to follow the EYFS.

 

I understand that agency childminders will not be inspected by Ofsted thus creating a two tier system confusing to everyone. Ofsted provide parents with the reassurance they need and I believe that they should inspect everyone.

 

We have not been told whether the cost of an inspection with Ofsted for an independent childminder will remain the same as it is now.

 

You state that you are making it easier for schools to open longer hours while wanting to increase the numbers of childminders. I feel strongly that school is a place for learning and after school the child needs a comfortable place to relax and play. Experience shows that schools providing care until much later offer care at a much reduced rate which many childminders cannot compete with making business unsustainable.

I have spoken to a local pilot who suggested that they would not be able to offer me anything and that I would be better off remaining independent as they saw their role as supporting new childminders thus creating a two tier system.

Finally, I would like to state that when I began childminding I had an annual visit from social services ensuring my home was safe and the children happy and well cared for. Those children have gone on to follow nursing degrees, teacher training, a career in the army, degrees in politics, a broadcasting career, all have been high achievers at school and the chosen career and all with happy memories. I had time to spend with these children and was not constantly writing observations.

Many childminders are not only opposed to childminder agencies but the immense burden of work to maintain their grades which cannot be done by an agency

I look forward to your response to my queries and hope I have given you something to think about.

 

More letters to follow in Part two of this blog

 

One response to “Part ONE – WE ALL SAY ‘NO TO CHILDMINDING AGENCIES’ (and are wondering just who is saying ‘Yes’)

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  1. Pingback: Bringing together all the blogs with letters against childminding agencies | Penny's Place Childminding

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