Part FOUR – We are all saying ‘NO to childminding agencies   1 comment

As it says it the heading – this is the fourth part of this blog – all with letters from those who are against childminding agencies – I would love to include some letters from those in favour of childminding agencies – to give a balanced view, however so far I have not received a single letter that is in favour of childminding agencies.

From Vicky Horton

Dear  Ms Truss

I would like to thank you for the letter sent to all childminders regarding the government reforms.  I would like to take this opportunity to reply with some of my views on the content of your letter.

 I am writing to let you know about Government reforms designed to make it easier to work as a childminder and attract new people to this important profession. These reforms make it easier for childminders to access government funding. We are also introducing the option of childminder agencies which can provide support for those childminders who are interested in this way of working.


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.

To address these issues, the Government is doing the following things:
Making Early Education Funding available – We want to make it easier for childminders to deliver early education places which are funded by the Government. Since 1st September last year, all childminders rated ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ by OFSTED are able to offer early education places for two-, three- and four- year-olds, if they wish to do so. Previously, fewer than 10% of childminders accessed government funding for early education places, and different rules applied in different areas. As with other early years providers, childminders are able to charge for any additional hours they provide. If you are interested in accessing this funding, please contact your local authority for advice on next steps.

If this is the case, I think the government should inform the local authorities of this.  Although an accredited childminder myself, having completed all the rigorous local authority requirements, and just having completed the level 3 diploma required by my LA, I have friends who have a good grading from OFSTED but not completed this accreditation process who are denied receipt of funding.  I have had discussions with a number of people in my local authority early years department and all have assured me that it is still currently necessary to complete and meet the previously required accreditation criteria to receive funding from them.

Enabling the creation of childminder agencies – We want to see the number of childminders grow. Establishing yourself as a childminder can be a complex and time consuming process. You are responsible for registering with Ofsted, arranging and paying for medical checks and paediatric first aid training, as well as securing public liability, car and home insurance, professional membership and DBS checks, buying equipment, creating a website, and sorting marketing and accountancy. These can vary but we recently estimated these costs at least £800.

 Where childminders choose to join an agency they will be offered business and marketing support, providing them with all they need to register as a childminder and helping them spread the costs of set-up. Agencies will also offer childminders access to training, including statutory training. In addition, agencies are designed to make it easier for parents to find a childminder to suit their child’s needs and they may be able to help with emergency cover (for example, when the childminder is ill). This brokerage and marketing function may also help childminders to fill their places more effectively, helping them to sustain and build their practice.

Agencies will need to register with and be inspected by Ofsted to ensure they meet all the necessary safeguarding and quality standards. This means parents can have confidence in the quality of care and early education offered by childminders registered with the agency.

Joining an agency will be entirely voluntary. Our proposals for agencies are about creating a new option for childminders and parents, where this is needed, not removing or replacing the role of independent childminders. You will be able to decide what is best for you. We absolutely understand that many childminders are content with the way they are working and we are simply offering a choice – a choice to stay independent and registered directly with Ofsted, or to join an agency. In addition, we expect that many childminders who opt to join an agency will choose to stay self-employed.

A number of organisations are currently testing and developing the practicalities of setting up an agency, with a view to establishing themselves as an agency and registering childminders from September 2014 onwards. Further details are available at: http://tinyurl.com/m8ajekf andwww.foundationyears.org.uk/child-minders/.
If you are interested in keeping up to date with developments from the childminder agency trials, please sign up to the monthly 4Children newsletter via the below link:http://tinyurl.com/foundationyearsnewsletter.

As an experienced, dedicated and passionate provider of childcare in the early years age range I provide a personal and unique service to the families using my setting.  As I am self-employed I can tailor my provision to suit both my clients and myself, and can ensure that they receive a service appropriate to their requirements.

 

Being part of an agency will take away my ability to be graded independently by Ofsted to reflect the quality of the service I provide. This is an indication to prospective parents of the high quality of my provision. I do not wish to be grouped together with many other childminders in an agency and the grading having no direct reflection of the service I personally provide.

 

I also believe that as the agencies will be running as private business this is a recipe for disaster.  They will have to make a profit from somewhere, be it the parents or the childcare providers.  As childminders are frequently working for less than minimum wage after deductions they can ill afford to pay for training, inspections or other fees, and many quality providers may have no choice but to choose more lucrative employment.  Parents already struggle with childcare costs, and do not want to pay even more money into the coffers of these agencies.  There has been no concrete evidence of how the Agency model will reduce costs for patents, indeed we as a profession have been given no information whatsoever regarding the financial implications to us as Childinders, which has been quite a worry to many of us as many of us are on a tight budget due to our extremely low income.

 

Confusion for parents will ensue as they will not know whether it is better for them to go with an agency or independent childminder, and it will result in them paying more as the cost of the fees will need to be passed on.  There will be no uniform training or support resulting in some agencies offering an inferior service to the children and service. In an Agency model the children we become merely commodities and the profit margin will be the bottom line, as no business can be successful without a profit.   Where does this leave the children in relation to health and safety, safeguarding and nurturing?  If an Agency is flailing what will they be prepared to cut back on?  Who will ultimately be responsible if this ide goes tragically wrong? The Childminder? The Agency? The Government? Yourself?  With whom does the buck stop?

 

We are being given the choice to remain independent but as all the LA early years teams are being disbanded where will we be able to access support and training, and how can we fund it as, as previously stated, we are earning less than minimum wage?

 

And, very importantly, agencies would jeopardise the personal relationship between the childminder and parents, something that OFSTED has concentrated on over the last few years. We as practitioners work very hard to maintain excellent relationships with Parents.  This is one of things all my parents state that they value greatly on my parental feedback forms.

 

This has been conveniently kept out of the media and we have been given no information whatsoever about how this will work. If it is possible for you to write to every childminder now as a fait accompli surely it would have been possible to write to us all asking for our opinions and advice as to how and whether to implement this, and if it was actually necessary at all.
Local authority networks and support – Overall funding for early intervention and childcare will increase from £2,365bn in 2012-13 to £2,510bn in 2014-15. This is in addition to the £2bn plus given by Government to local authorities to spend on funded early education for three- and four-year olds. Local authorities themselves decide how best to use this funding to fulfil their statutory duties and provide local services. This includes how best to support childminders and other childcare providers. Many local authorities run excellent childminder networks but we estimate that only 10% of childminders are part of such a network. The Government therefore recently removed the requirement for a childminder to be part of a childminder network in order to access early education funding, because we felt that this was unfair and unnecessarily restrictive. We want to help childminders in accessing a range of support and training, and we believe they should be able to decide what works best for them. In the future, support will be available from a variety of sources which may include the local authority, a local childminder agency where this exists, as well as other professional bodies and training providers.

As  stated previously, there is still a requirement to be in the network in my LA and to meet their extra requirements.  The required training course for prospective new Childminders has been advertised since last September but there is no information available to give Childminders wanting to register, as the course has not been set up yet.  There is no financial help for anyone wanting to become a childminder,  even those on benefits who are trying to get back into work.  Help for them would have a much better chance of increasing the number of Childminders rather then the creation of Agencies.
Working with schools –We are making it easier for schools to open for more hours of the day, and more weeks of the year to provide childcare for working parents, as we know from talking with parents that this is what they want. In doing so, however, we are actively encouraging schools to work in partnership with childminders and other private, voluntary and independent childcare providers to provide the best possible service for parents. You may wish to approach your local schools about how you might work together to provide a more joined-up service for parents and enhance children’s care and learning experiences.

As a Chidminder I spend a lot of time at local schools and toddler groups and am aware of the opinions of parents of young children.  They think that their children spend enough years at school and that young children need freedom to play and have fun and have adults around them who can channel that play into an educational experience.  As Childminders we already work closely with local schools and nurseries.  And in regard to the idea of having 2 year olds in school, as one parent said to me, why not have a kibbutz next to the labour ward so that they (the babies) can go straight from one to the other and the government can take all decisions about our kids away from us.  I assure you that that is the opinion of nearly all parents I come into contact with, who, by the way, know nothing whatsoever about the implementation of Agencies.

This Government knows that childminders have an important role to play in both supporting parents and improving outcomes for children. That is why we are doing all we can to support you in this. I wish you every success in your work with children and families.

Thank you very much, but the best support the government could give us is to listen to what we have to say and give us clear and comprehensive information about changes that will affect our practice.

 From Jackie Noakes

Dear Ms. Truss,

I am writing in response to your ‘one letter for all’ sent out on the 3rd February 2014.

I have been a Registered Childminder since 1997, 17 years. In that time I have looked after numerous children from many families. I have, because of my passion for my career and my enthusiasm for helping children learn and develop at their own individual rate, gained a BA in Early Years and then my Early Years Professional Status. Both of these qualifications have given me the confidence and experience to develop myself and support, advise and guide other early years workers not just childminders.

Throughout my time as a childminder I have rarely been out of work and have developed a fabulous reputation so much so I now have a waiting list of parents wanting to use my services.

I have many concerns about the way you have treated childminders as you seem to have forgotten that,  though we run business from our homes and appear to be classed as stay at home parents, we are an eloquent group of people who have voices which your government appear to have not listened to.

1.  Making funding available to all ‘Good’ and ‘Outstanding’ childminders not just the ones on the network, has helped give more children and parents opportunities to access free Early Years Education. By taking away the fantastic support from the Local Authorities you have in essence created a workforce that is now providing early years education but without quality support so reducing the quality of education and also risking those childminders to be downgraded.

2. Creation of childminding agencies when so many childminders have vociferously stated that these are not needed. Many of us have asked for you to visit and meet childminders during their working week to actually see what kind of fabulous education and care happens in a childcare setting. You haven’t even had the decency to reply let alone visit so how you can do a blanket statement telling childminders what we want and need is unacceptable. Now because of the way you have taken away the Local authority support and introduced agencies with the training and ‘marketing support’ you are creating a two tiered system of childminders which will give the impression that those in agencies are better supported and therefore of a better quality. This is going to cause a huge disadvantage to those childminders that remain independent and also be a very unequal system. To my mind it is one way where the state will be controlling childcare.

3. Ofsted inspections for the independent childminders still have not been made clear enough; there is much discrepancy in how much may be charged for childminders to continue to being inspected. By having Ofsted inspections it ensures childminders remain on a level playing field with other Early Years workers and also maintains their professionalism. By excluding Agency childminders from Ofsted inspections you are also at risk of having a substandard workforce, doing agency inspections will not suffice and one grade for all will also not show the best or worst of the agency just an average.

4. Working with schools- I and many other childminders would not be able to do our job if we did not already have a good working relationship with schools and preschools. I have had parents directed to me when looking for childcare, I am sent the newsletter and have texts sent out keeping me up to date with what’s happening with the school. In the summer I am invited, as the Vice Chair of our childminding group, to do an activity session during the schools summer fete. So encouraging us to work with schools is a hollow request as this is already happening and if you had done your research correctly you would have discovered that for yourself.

In conclusion, I feel that you should really have thought out your plans for childminders before making statements. Originally, when you thought of these harebrained ideas, you should have approached many childminders, their professional organisations, Ofsted inspectors who inspect childminders and Local Authorities departments who support childminders about your ideas. Then you may have developed a plan that would truly help childminders equally and fairly so not producing a two tiered system. What you and your department are doing is causing a division within a workforce that has worked jolly hard to integrate within the Early Years section of the Education community. This division is not going to benefit children and parents in fact what it is going to do is to cause more confusion and inequality across the Early Years both for parents and professionals alike.

I hope you will take my concerns on board and as I have taken the time to write a letter detailing my concerns I think it would be acceptable for you to return the compliment to me and the many other childminders who have written to you. A letter to all is not an acceptable way to treat a very valuable workforce.

I look forward to your reply

From Amanda Stone

Dear Ms. Truss

I am an Ofsted Registered Childminder based in North Nottinghamshire, I have been registered for 14 years originally through social services under 8s team and now through Ofsted.

My business has been built on my reputation and the care I have given the children and their families – often giving them support in difficult situations.

I have all the required paperwork and am perfectly capable as a self-employed person of producing my own policies and procedures. Which I am happy to share, for free, with anyone who needs my support.

I do not feel that there is a need for Agencies. I chose to be self employed and do not want or need someone telling me how to run my business. I would be worried that many agencies would be run by nursery staff, or worse paper pushers that do not know what being a Childcare provider is all about.

I am proud of my Ofsted grade that was awarded on my merit alone. I do not wish to be inspected along with a group of other childminders, with varying degrees of ability, or indeed on the management of an Agency.

There are a lot of rumours about the potential cost of being part of an Agency. Whatever this amounts to, it is bound to be over and above what I have to pay as an individual, as the Agency will be looking to make a profit. I do not see why my hard earned cash should go into the pocket of a third party, when I am perfectly capable of running my own business independently.

I know that if it becomes compulsory for me to join an agency I will resign my registration and stop working.

If you would like to discuss this matter further, please feel free to contact me on the details below

From Lindsay Deighton

Dear Ms Truss,

I am writing to express my concern regarding the introduction of childminder agencies. I have been a registered childminder for 7 years and I live in Lancashire. I was graded good at my last inspection 3 1/2 years ago.  I have been working hard to improve my services and I’m aiming for outstanding at my next inspection. However if your plans to introduce agencies go ahead I understand I will no longer be inspected as an individual!

I am on a childminding network though it’s future after April 2014 is unknown. I work voluntary for Lancashire county council as a childminder mentor to new childminders. Lancashire county council’s early years team are very efficient at supporting childminders and effectively make good use of established childminders as part of the mentoring service they offer to all new CMs. The area I serve is semi rural and has a number of childminders already. My work often comes through recommendation from previous parents or via the councils free family information service listing. In all my time as a childminder I have never been full for 5 days a week or even for full opening hours! I do not understand the need to introduce childminder agencies to create more childcare spaces, there is not a shortage in my area. Many local nurseries, pre schools, and childminders have vacancies.

There are so many unanswered questions within your ‘letter to all childminder’s’ that fail to address the ‘how’ this will all work. All I see it leading to is huge variations on how childminders are regulated and supported regionally, with some doing extremely well and others not so.
I will not be able to pass on any costs to my parents if I decide to join an agency. Many are already financially stretched. My hourly rate is £4 an hour but at times have had to lower this to suit a parents childcare budget. Why would I want to pay a ‘middle man’ to do something I can manage perfectly well on my own. The agency won’t be able to do the real work of observations and next step planning as only I myself am in daily contact with the children! I have spent the past 7 years building my business and have taken a pride in this as most small business owners do.

I intend to stay independent but worry about my ability to access relevant training and continue to grow and improve without my network support or council approved training. So If I do not join an agency where will I get my training from? Will we end up with some childminders accessing inferior training, currently the local council are responsible for making sure the training is relevant to the region. I recently did a CAF update and this was, naturally, all about how the Lancashire system works.

There is nothing wrong with the way things work now. Ofsted ‘regulate’ and local authority ‘support.’ If agencies are brought in it will create a two tier system that will lead to confusion and weakening of confidence in the ever important system for keeping children safe. There will be too many ‘grey’ areas that will allow certain people to abuse the system and individual inspections are the only way to ensure that Every Child is kept safe. There should only be one pathway to registration to ensure quality provision across the board!

From Debbie Woodhouse

Dear Ms Truss,

 

Ref:  Childminding Agencies

 

Let me tell it to you straight, I do not want a ‘middleman’ being involved in my SELF EMPLOYED Business. I have worked long and hard to get to the OUTSTANDING grade that I have achieved and I am not going to lose it because of a grading that may be given as a whole to an Agency , where you have to rely upon a large group on individuals getting outstanding grades? .

I live in Hampshire which is meant to be where this pilot is being held? What pilot? I and about 20 of my friends at least have not been told anything by Hampshire Council and we are meant to be on this pilot? What absolute twaddle.

I am so angry the way you bring to bear changes in childcare which you obviously know nothing about. It is very clear to me that if I belonged to an Agency there will be further costs involved to the childminder and to the parents. Who is going to swallow these costs? I can’t’ afford to as I earn a pittance anyway, and I cannot put my fees up anymore or the parents will have nothing left out of their earnings.

Are you trying to get rid of childminders, because that is what it looks like?

I haven’t even received your letter yet but I read it online. You don’t go into any detail at all. How can we agree with you when we don’t know what changes it will bring and whether we think it is manageable?

Let me summarise for you, I won’t be joining an agency and if they become mandatory or you make it so impossible for me to work independently, then I will leave the profession. Years of training and experience down the drain and you will have lost another great childminder.

Don’t expect me to vote for your party in the next election either.

From Marion Rist

Dear Ms Truss

I feel compelled to write to after reading the letter you sent to all childminders in the England.

I can see the attraction a childminding agency would have as a childminder who was starting out especially the matching of parents as this I feel is one of the hardest obstacles to overcome – getting that first ‘mindee’

However..I am concerned about the introduction of childminding agencies for successful established childminders and the parents that they already care for.

Will the introduction marketing of agencies promote that it is better for the parent to choose from an agency childminder? Therefore potentially putting childminders who choose to remain independent out of business or in desperation they join an agency themselves?

The agencies are being forced upon us, even though you say that we have a choice to join, but you are making the training, and funding difficult to access if we do not join and independent Ofsted fees for childminders will be raised to an amount that a childminder is going to find difficult to budget for, unless we raise our fees to cover, so again this government continues to put affordable childcare out of reach for the parents.

I have been an Ofsted registered childminder for 14 years and have worked hard for my grade.

I  am worried about childminders who may feel it is no longer necessary to ‘try’ as hard as their poorer grade will be ‘ swallowed up’ by the higher grades for the agencies overall grade. I find this worrying and demoralizing. Why would I want my good grade lessened by others not working to my high standards? I do not understand how a of group area inspection grading will give a parent the best view of a potential childminder.

I am also concerned about the complaint procedure in an agency setting.

Would a person complain to the agency about a provider or to ofsted citing the agency the childminder is linked to?

Will the agency act appropriately or will the outcome affect their reputation?

I feel that vulnerable children may well be at risk in this situation.

I understand childminders will have to pay an agency fee?

How much would this be or would it be up to individual agencies if this is the case will this promote a ‘supermarket’ type rivalry to gain childminders / parents to join a particular agency.

All in all Ms Truss, this is a very worrying time for both childminders and the parents of the children they care for.

All we require is clear concise answers to our many questions – as so far a lot of promises are being made but there is no practical action plan you are willing to share with us regarding actual costs.

From Annette Soan

Dear Ms Truss

Thank you for your letter dated 3rd February 2014.

I have been childminding for 25 years.   At present I am caring for second generation children, i.e., children of children previously cared for.   I frequently have adults approach me and introduce themselves as someone I cared for in the past.

My business has been built on my reputation and the care I have given the children and their families – often giving them support in difficult situations.

I have all the usual contracts and policies, which anyone can copy or download, but does that make me a good childminder?   I would rather be seen as a Professional Childcarer than a Paper Pusher.   Writing a policy does not make you a better Childcare Provider.

I don’t want or feel that there is a need for Agencies.   I can think of nothing worse than someone who has never been a Childminder trying to tell me how to run my business.   My guess is that most Agencies will be run by people from the Nursery profession.   This work is very different to that of a day in the life of a Childminder and they would not have any real understanding of the practicalities involved in my work.

I know that when the time comes for me to give up childminding I will dearly miss the children.   I will also miss the companionship of other childminders and the support that we have always given each other.   This form of support is far more valuable than that of someone who is being paid to ‘support’ me.

I am proud of my registration grade that has been judged on my merit alone.   I do not wish to be judged along with a group of other childminders, with varying degrees of ability, or indeed on the management of an Agency.

There are a lot of rumours about the potential cost of being part of an Agency.   Whatever this amounts to, it is bound to be over and above what I have to pay as an individual, as the Agency will be looking to make a profit.   I do not see why my hard earned cash should go into the pocket of a third party, when I am perfectly capable of running my own business independently.

So, to answer the question, ‘Will you join an Agency?’ my reply will be, ‘NO THANKS!’.

From Amy Warner – Whyte

Dear Ms Truss,

I read your recent correspondence to all childminders with eagerness, wanting to fill the answers I questioned, but now feel that this subject area is even more ambiguous and has left childminders with even more questions.

Let me explain my professional early years background…

I qualified as an Nursery Nurse (NNEB) nearly 16 years ago, although twenty years in professional early years settings, and gradually gained experience in a number of provisions;  a family centre, playgroups, nurseries, schools and special needs schools. I then decided that I would start my own home based child care service, alongside my husband who is also a registered child minder. I went through all the necessary steps; first aid, a home based childcare course, safeguarding, OFSTED checks, feeling that what I was acheiving would make a difference to children’s lifes.

Eight years has passed, I obtained firstly a Foundation Degree and recently a BA (Hons) Degree in Integrated Childhood Practice and started a Masters in early years, also my husband is working on his own Degree and in those eight years we have welcomed local families into our inclusive setting offering; day, overnight, respite, emergency care, (2, 3 & 4 year old) Nursery funding, long and short term care. When our setting first opened it was a struggle financially, both I and my husband took on second jobs as our professional reputation grew. The setting is now established and our reputation proceeds us. My husband built a playroom exclusively for all the minded children and we have recently received funding from the early years department to make our garden inclusive and accommodate the rise in two year olds needing Nursery Funding, as locally there is a high rise in the need for places….

…..So where are these two year olds needing funding? I have only ever cared for two children needing the two year funding in the four years of being accredited. Whilst I have cared and educated many three and four year olds through the funding there still seems to be a gap in what the local figures illustrate and the amount of enquiries I have received and low number of spaces I have filled, which begs the question why is money (£10,000 per setting) being poured into schools to help give these two year old children a space?  As I mentioned above, I live in an area where need is high but after a recent discussion with an early years consultant the spaces available at childminders are not being filled, so why waste more money on new avenues, but instead support health visitors, families centres to sign post the individual child and families to a setting best placed to their unique needs (such as childminders) that already offer spaces?

The next question I ask, why agencies? And why now? The answer I get time and time again in my head is privatisation thus reducing local authority expenditure. Why is this happening when local Early Years Advisors, Family Information Services etc. are best placed to know there local childminding provisions but just need extra resources to boost their supportive roles and when local childminders already network to fill private, three and four year old funded spaces, answer each others questions, mutually act as a supportive and friendly source of inspiration, help and guidance. Why add an agency into the agenda when it will not reduce costs for childminders, but increase their expenditure if we are to pay agency fees and instead undermine a network of dedicated, passionate professionals who have battled to keep home based childcare settings on an even keel with other early years provisions.

Why give childminders the Early Foundation Stage to raise equality across the early years but then in one foul move take away our independence, sweep aside our voices and make us plead to not let agencies, private or otherwise dictate how we run our settings. Yes, you write that belonging to an agency will be voluntary but how can a small business compete with an agency? How can we keep our unique services afloat if we are to be drowned down by agencies taking away spaces for children and placing children with an elitist selection of childminders?  Simply put-those childminders, such as myself, who stay loyal to their professional independent roots will not survive but be forced out and whilst all the best will in the world of building and maintaining a professional reputation locally will be shadowed by huge corporate agencies eating into the childminders who are left.

I end my letter by pleading with you put finances back into locally run resources, by keeping our profession as it is and understanding although change is a good thing when needed, it is however not needed when there is no change (agency or otherwise) necessary, there is not one dedicated, long standing childminder I am aquinted with who supports joining an agency and the only way of surviving now is to stand united against these ill advised recent developments and tp fight the impacts agencies could have on our independence!

From Fran Greatorex

Dear Ms Truss,
I am totally against Childminding Agencies.
I received ‘Outstanding’ from Ofsted in 2011 and have worked extremely hard daily to keep up my status. My day starts at 05.30 and the first child arrives at 06.30, the last child leaves at 18.00. I am then on my laptop until 22.00 most days, scanning updates to do with childminding, scanning Facebook for activities and any updates, scanning the Ofsted website for updates, searching for activity ideas for the children, completing their Learning Journal’s, printing off photos, writing up observations and setting up my home for the next day of work, then I have to look after my family and home! That is a 16 + hour day – not something I guess you would appreciate.  I do it because I love my job – I love the independence, I love being self-employed and am very proud of my Ofsted grading.
I do not see how agencies will reduce costs to parents! I am going to have to pass on any increases – as I wish to remain independent – to parents. If they pay through an agency – how will the childminder get paid. When I only have one child, I am being paid way below the minimum wage. So would an agency pay me a set rate per hour – regardless of how many children I have? AND I would therefore be classed as employed so I would therefore want holiday and sick pay, my tax paid by the agency, national insurance paid and I would not have to complete a tax return I presume?
You state that by being part of an agency it will reduce the ‘burden’ on childminders and free up our time to spend with the children. Well, this will only ever happen if somebody is kind enough to complete my Learning Journals, print off my photos and place in albums, produce all my planning, search for and set up activities, complete all the required paperwork PLUS clean my house AND everything else I have to do in a day!!!! This is never going to happen so that statement is ludicrous!!!!
You also propose that emergency cover can be sorted and holiday cover. Well, as required by Ofsted I have two back up childminders in place that all the children know already – why would a parent want them go to a stranger should an emergency arise which would probably already have panicked them???? Holiday cover is also sorted either by myself – again asking those childminders that are part of a network and that the children know – or the parents use family. SORTED!!!!
Training – previously, I have had access to free training by my local authority – or I search online. Again – SORTED!!!!!
Parents finding childcare – at the moment, parents have access to a number of childcare search websites, plus the local authority also have a list. Why would a parent not want to chose a childminder themselves. Would you place your child with somebody you really did not gel with, or in a setting that is not easily accessible or homely?? The ultimate decision is down to the parents – their most precious thing in the world needs to be placed in a setting that they feel homely in and comfortable in dealing with the childminder – so another downfall!!!!!
I am extremely upset by this idea of agencies – I have not been sleeping well as September draws ever nearer and we are still being kept in the dark as to what it will be costing us – either to remain independently registered or register with an agency. WE WANT TO KNOW CHARGES – AND FAST.
I really do not suppose you will even read this, but I hope you read at least 100 of these letters as all of them will be opposed to agencies.  I am so frustrated that we are not being listened to by the government.
I cannot see one positive point of being part of an agency – not one!!!!!
AND I FOR ONE WILL NOT GO DOWN WITHOUT A FIGHT!!!!
From Susan Cottier

Dear Ms Truss,

 

I am an Ofsted registered childminder and I have been running my own successful childminding business for 17 years. During this time I have seen many changes, both good and bad. Based on the current lack of information available regarding how childminding agencies will work and their costs for both childminders and parents, the idea of introducing such agencies would appear to be one of the worst.

When I first registered childminders were inspected yearly by social services. My home was checked throughout, the inspector checking all rooms, the outdoor area, safety procedures and equipment and all documentation. They asked questions about the activities provided and how these could be used to enhance children’s learning and development. At that time, 17 years ago there was very little training available after the initial introduction to childminding, which you were expected to complete before registration.

Over the years the support and training available from my local authority, Bradford, has been amazing. They have viewed childminders to be of equal importance as nurseries and other settings in providing quality childcare to families. I appreciate that this support comes at a huge cost and they, like many councils, are having to cut back drastically.

Moving on, the yearly social services inspections were replaced by inspections by Ofsted once every 3 to 4 years. Whilst I have had no complaints about the inspectors themselves (They were always pleasant and I have always received  good with outstanding features as my grading), the inspections themselves have never been as thorough as the old social services inspection, often concentrating on the paperwork, rather than the children and the quality of care they receive. On two inspections the inspector confined themselves to my sofa with the piles of paperwork requested, had brief chats about and with the children and then left. They didn’t really inspect my home or the facilities I provide. I was left with the feeling that if I had anything to hide it would have been incredibly easy to do so. I have never considered the Ofsted inspection to be an improvement on the old social services inspection.

Over the years I have undertaken many training courses, including studying for a degree in childcare (almost complete). I have received support from fellow childminders and in turn provided peer support for other childminders, both new and experienced. We meet, we discuss issues and we present solutions to each other. At the moment the issue of childminding agencies is featuring highly in our discussions and the overwhelming concensus would be that we fail to see how they could work successfully, particularly in relation to making childcare more affordable and of better quality. The decision to implement these agencies seems to have been decided well in advance of and with little regard to the results of various consultations being published. At no point have we been given any firm indications of:-

  • How much will agencies charge childminders to access their services and support?
  • How much will agencies charge parents to use their services?
  • There will be costs involved with agencies and these will inevitable be passed on to families because childminders are mostly very low paid, so how will  these proposals result in childcare costs being brought down?
  • How will agencies work to match up parents and childminders and how much choice the parents will be given in choosing who will provide childcare for their children? This is something I am particularly concerned about. I always encourage parents to visit as many different establishments as possible before making a firm decision as they need to find someone they can trust implicitly, particularly as a childminder usually has sole charge of their child (as opposed to nurseries where there are many staff members)
  • Will agency childminders be self employed and set their own fee structure or will they become employees of the agency?
  • How much it will cost for childminders to remain independent? I appreciate that the current £35 per year cannot possibly cover the true cost of carrying out an inspection, but we still need to know.
  • How will parents be able to distinguish between agency childminders and independent childminders? Will they be furnished with information telling them what the difference between the two will be?
  • Will there be a conflict of interest when agencies grade the childminders they have signed up? Currently inspections and gradings are independent, whereas in future it may be in the interests of a profit making agency to grade their childminders more favourably.
  • What will happen to agency childminders if the agency goes bust? Will they be able to continue practising?

 

There are lots more questions that I have seen raised, but which so far haven’t had any answers.

As an individual I have no intention of joining an agency. I value my independence, I value the right to be my own boss and I value the right to make my own considered choices with regard to my future. I would urge you to reconsider your proposals as I truly believe that it will result in more excellent childminders leaving the profession than will join the profession. I also believe that the proposals will result in less parental choice and higher costs to families.

From Cheryl Bower

Dear Ms Truss

I am quite new to childminding. I registered in 2012 and I am proud to say all my spaces have been taken and I have also had to start a waiting list. I received a Good Ofsted judgement on my first grading. This was down to much hard work but mainly because of the support, guidance and training from Bradford childcare.

All of my business has come from word of mouth and most parents have said they have chosen me due to my extensive childcare background, having been a nanny and worked in in nurserys from leaving school.

Childcare is my career and I have enjoyed childminding thoroughly since starting. When I was going through registration to become a childminder I was astounded by the people who were also wanting to become childminders. There were mums wanting a job to fit round their own children, telephone bankers, taxi drivers, and many others from different walks off life. What concerned me the most is that some of them had no experience of looking after children at all.
And despite this, there is no statutory guidance and no mandatory training or compulsory knowledge that people wanting to become childminders have to go on which teaches the basic necessary points to keep a child alive!!

There is safeguarding training, there is first aid training, there are the DBS checks. But who teaches these people, or who checks that they are completely able and understand how to change a nappy, how to sterilise a bottle or what and how to wean a baby?? These are basic needs for a baby and yet that baby is legally allowed to spend hours alone, vulnerable and unchecked, with a person who potentially cannot fulfil its basic needs. Where does this come under safeguarding children??

Now your also introducing agencies which are going to help childminders fill places. So who will be to blame when a baby contracts and possibly dies from gastroenteritis due to dirty, unhygienic bottles? Will it be the childminders blame or the agency for letting that child go to an uneducated minder?

I have no intention of joining an agency. I have worked hard at building my business. I am self employed. I don’t know any childminder who wishes to join an agency, who are simply there to make a profit from both parents and minders.
I find it shocking that you have not taken into account the parents and childminders opinions regarding these agencies. I believe that you won’t even read these letters, still opposing the agencies. However, I only hope that you do take time to read them and understand why so many people, people in the childcare field, are so against these agencies.
No one other than you, the government will benefit. Children we be open to all sorts of abuse, of things going wrong. Will it be on your head when something dreadful happens? Or will you ignore it and brush it under the carpet in the same manor as the childcare sectors opinions?

I am only relieved through all this, that I don’t need childcare for my own children. I also fear for the children I currently care for. What type of education, of child care, will they be faced with throughout their childhood.

If you do take the time to read this, I thank you, at least for your time

From Teresa Dowding

Dear Ms Truss

I am writing to you in response to your blanket letter to all childminders.

I am an Ofsted registered childminder working in Nottingham. I have been registered since January 2009.  During these years I have become very dedicated and passionate for my role and childminding in general.

 

How will your proposed agencies help parents, children or childminders?

  • Introducing a middle man certainly will not reduce costs for childminders and childcare fees for parents. I believe this is impossible and you have not yet stated how you see this happening. It will in fact rise the costs 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.
  • Quality of childcare. –  Agency childminders will no longer be individually inspected Agencies and a sample of their childminders will be inspected by Ofsted –  surely this is a serious safeguarding issue,  How do you know for sure that each and every setting is of the same quality as the agency grading? There will be NO Ofsted visits, NO LA visits. This will be replaced by a member of agency staff visiting.  I believe that the majority of childminders who join an agency will be either newly registered minders because they will assume there is no other option as LA support and entry way into childminding is pulled or substandard childminders wanting to stop Ofsted inspections because they have a substandard grading in the past and cannot get business due to reputation.
  • Your ill thought out proposal are only months away – You have been unable and unwilling to provide adequate information. This is unacceptable and incompetent. – We have received no news about agencies or how independent minders will be catered for. You have  NOT listened to childminders of this country
  • I have spoken to many childminders about your proposal I have yet to meet or speak with ONE childminder who is actually in favour. Can you answer how many you know of who are in favour?
  • You stated in your letter that childminders are an ‘affordable, flexible’ option for parents. Yes we are, so what makes you think agencies will be better then what is already on offer?
  • You want to remove the burden of paperwork – how can agencies do the minders paperwork on the development of individual children? Or will they be exempted from EYFS?
  • How will the agency be able to 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,
  • Everything you are suggesting that an agency will do Was already there in the  form of  local authorities and networks. But the government started reducing funding to these and the staff.
  • Agencies will help minders fill their spaces –I don’t want to be matched with clients, I want to be able to choose my own clients who I have in my home . Clients can’t be produced out of thin air if there are none seeking care.
  • Joining an agency will be voluntary – Until YOU decide that your proposals are a success and that ALL minders have to be an agency minder?
  • I feel the way you and this government have behaved by ignoring petitions and campaigns, not understanding minding and its essence. You want to help minders to decide what works best for us? Try listening to us before its too late and you either make minders extinct or leave us in a complete mess.
  • Working with schools – Many minders already work closely with local schools and other settings.

I would like to make it extremely clear; I do not support childminding agencies. I do not see the need for them. I have no intention of joining a childminding agency; I have worked in the childcare sector most of my adult life. 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 w

 

 

 

 

 

One response to “Part FOUR – We are all saying ‘NO to childminding agencies

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

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