Part SIX – We are all saying ‘NO to childminding agencies’   3 comments

This is the final planned part of my blog containing letters to Ms. Truss . About 75 letters have been added – but I have 200 to give to Elizabeth Truss when I take part in a meeting with her and other representatives of the childminding community, at the end of March.

If anyone else wants to send a letter to Ms. Truss expressing their views – in favour of  or against childminding agencies – these can be emailed to me Pennys.place@hotmail.co.uk , I will print the letter and hand it to the Minister personally – I will also reply to your email so you know that I have received it

The letters;

From Dawn Heaps

Dear Ms Truss MP,

I am writing to you regarding your letter to all child minders dated 3rd February 2014. I feel very passionately about my profession and the way it is viewed and supported by local and national government. There was so much in your letter that I felt needed addressing that I will deal with each section using direct quotes.

In your opening paragraph you state ‘Government reforms designed to make it easier to work as a child minder and attract new people to this important profession’ – I do not see how any of the reforms being proposed actually will achieve this. The introduction of agencies will not alter the day to day practice required of a child minder other than agency child minders will not have their practice reinforced by the knowledge that Ofsted could knock on their door at any time to inspect them. Agencies will not be able to complete daily diaries or observations, track children’s progress, produce 2yr old development assessments or complete accident/incident/medication forms. The only way agencies may make it ‘easier’ is by providing standardised templates and documents for their child minders to use in either paper or computerised formats. These same templates and documents can already be sourced by child minders for free or for minor charges. Therefore the agencies are not providing a service that does not already exist and will be charging much higher fees than those services already available.

You go on to say ‘We are introducing the option of child minder agencies which can provide support for those child minders who are interested in this way of working’ – I am interested in how many child minders have stated they will join an agency when they are finally created as I have yet to meet a single child minder who is pro-agencies. I am a Lead child minder supporting a local cluster group, a PACEY Local facilitator as well as an active member on many online child minder groups, so am able to say with confidence that I speak with many child minders both locally and nationally on a regular basis and have not had a single person express an interest. You may feel that those of us who are very vocal about our concerns deter others from expressing their views, but I am very careful to always make clear that my views are exactly that, mine, and I am open to listening to any other views and opinions.

Your letter then goes on to deal with the specific reforms so I will share my views on your statements as such.

With regards to Making Early Education Funding Available I wish to congratulate the government in removing the need to be part of a network in order to deliver the early education places however the numbers of child minders offering this service is unlikely to increase whilst the level of funding remains lower than the hourly fee charged by most child minders. I personally have offered this service to parents and have done so at a loss to my income. I also have concerns that should child minder agencies be introduced, child minders within an agency rated good or outstanding by Ofsted will be able to deliver these places even if their own practice may not be of a high enough standard which will be difficult to judge without individual Ofsted inspection. The government can state that the agency will ensure that the child minders are of suitable quality but this surely goes against the governments own statement that they wanted Ofsted to be the sole arbitrator of quality when they made the decision to remove the quality assessments of the local authorities.

You make several points within the section Enabling the Creation of Child Minder Agencies which I feel very strongly need addressing:

  • ‘Establishing yourself as a child minder can be a complex and time consuming process’ – which in my opinion is as it should be. As child minders we are charged by parents to care for and educate their most precious and vulnerable child. People entering the profession should be highly committed, motivated and skilled. The processes in place ensure that the professionalism is maintained and that people enter it for the right reasons. An agency will not be able to shorten the length of time completing this process will take as it is frequently the DBS that holds up applications alongside completing the necessary courses. Agencies will not be able to set people up without the statutory requirements being in place so how do they reduce the process. As for the complexity of becoming a child minder, there are several professional bodies as well as local authority teams offering support, advice and business products to assist people entering the profession. These services are offered for free or at a much lower cost than the estimated figures being suggested by pilot agency reports. So I do not see how the child minder agencies will be offering anything that is not already available to anyone wishing to become a child minder unless the government is intending to make even greater Local Authority budget savings by removing all support offered via early years teams to child minders.
  • ‘Agencies will offer child minders access to training, including statutory training’ – again these services are already provided by Local Authorities, professional bodies and local groups. In fact, many PACEY Local groups support child minders in accessing training, especially in areas where Local Authority training was either removed or no longer subsidised. Having seen some of the expected costs of these training packages from a pilot agency I can say that they are greater than the costs of training that can be accessed via other providers and experienced/informed child minders will be very aware of this giving them no incentive to join an agency. As the government have also expressed that independent child minders will not be able to access agency services without fully joining the agency, a potential market for the agencies services that would help to reduce costs has been lost and independent child minders will source their training elsewhere. I also have to say, how long does the minister think agency child minders will remain registered with an agency for when they realise that they could reduce their overheads by becoming independently registered.
  • ‘Agencies are designed to make it easier for parents to find a child minder to suit their child’s needs’ – Again I have to ask how will they make it easier. There are already a variety of services including Family Information Services, online childcare sites, local online notice boards and other sources such as yellow pages that enable parents to find local child minders free of any charge. Agencies will be unable to operate this service without some costs to themselves therefore the costs will have to be recouped from either the parent, the child minder or both. This does not sit well with the governments agenda of reducing child care costs to parents or supporting the growth of child minding businesses. This service also does not take into account the ‘word of mouth’ aspect to how parents find child minders. Many of our parents contact us as we have been recommended by others. Agency child minders would have to refer these parents to the agency, thus generating a fee, before they would be able to offer the parent their services.
  • ‘Agencies… may be able to help with emergency cover’ – If wanted by the parents. In my experience, many child minders now work closely with colleagues to provide an emergency/holiday cover scheme themselves without the need for an agency. By working in partnership with other child minders, the children become known by the other child minder and are in a better position to offer emergency care for the child. Despite offering this service to parents using my child minding business, many do not feel comfortable leaving their child with a child minder not known to them. I have had parents refuse emergency care, preferring instead to make their own arrangements. It can be very distressing for a child to suddenly be sent to a new child minder in a new environment, and this service needs to be carefully looked at in relation to the needs of the child.
  • ‘Our proposals for agencies are about creating a new option for child minders and parents…not removing or replacing the role of independent child minders’ – but the way the introduction of agencies is being publicised implies that this change will improve on the current provision, not add to an already important and quality provision. The manner in which agencies are being described definitely implies that they are going to improve quality which thus suggests that current providers are not providing a good enough service. The way the training options that an agency can deliver is being portrayed implies that this is new or better training when in fact it is exactly what is already available to any child minder who choses to source it for themselves. The quality of any support or training that can be provided by an agency is yet to be proved and therefore should not be being portrayed as better than current provision. An example of how this is already impacting on independent child minders is an experience I and a colleague had with a child minder who had been linked with a pilot agency. The new (inexperienced) child minder told us that she was trained to a better quality than my colleague was because she had been with the pilot. This child minder was unaware that my colleague has several years experience, an Outstanding grade at her last Ofsted inspection and had completed a BA in Early Years as well as her EYPS. The new child minder was not to blame for her assumptions as she had been led to believe she was better quality by the way the pilot programme had been portrayed by staff of the pilot agency. Parents may also be misled by this implication that agency child minders will be better when currently it would appear that only new, therefore potentially inexperienced, child minders will have a reason to join agencies.
  • ‘choice to stay independent and register directly with Ofsted, or to join an agency’ – this creates a ‘them and us’ situation that results in distrust and the two tier system the government has been warned about by professional bodies. It also does not address the fact that some independent child minder may wish to purchase agency services, but not if it means having to give up their right to remain fully independent with their own individual Ofsted inspection. Cynics among us do feel that the introduction of child minder agencies allowed this government a way to remove individual inspections for child minders which was something many of fought hard against two years ago when it was first suggested by yourself. The reality is many child minders are not against the creation of child minder agencies as we see that they could be valuable to some child minders. What we are against is the fact that agency child minders will not be individually inspected by Ofsted thus their individual quality and suitability can not be effectively judged. The only justification we can see for the government taking this decision is to reduce costs by only inspecting the agency rather than each individual agency child minder. This concerns many of us who see ourselves as professionals as we fear safeguarding of children within agency child minders will not be inspected and therefore assured in the same way as every other educational establishment, thus undermining the professionalism and status of child minders amongst our peers and with parents. If the government actually truly and openly consulted with us, you would have a clearer understanding of these concerns which your letter does nothing to alleviate.

With regards to your comments on Local Authority Networks and Support increasing the funding whilst at the same time removing the statutory responsibility to provide training and support defeats the purpose of increasing the funding and does nothing to reassure child minders that any funding will be allocated to helping them. In fact the opposite is occurring with early years teams being removed or reduced, subsidisation of training being reduced or removed and many child minders feeling every more isolated in their professional development. You state that ‘only 10% of child minders are part of such a network’ but unfortunately many child minders are not interested in being part of networks, access only the training that is a statutory requirement and do not participate in local cluster groups or drop-ins. Throwing additional funding into local authority pots without clear direction on how these funds should be used will not address the numbers of child minders not accessing support and additional professional training. The government should be consulting with professional bodies, local authorities AND child minders to look at best practice across the country and implementing greater early years team support schemes and peer support schemes. Introducing child minder agencies will not address the 90% who do not participate in networks and similar support schemes.

Your final point regarding Working with Schools again conflicts with your statements about wanting to support child minder numbers and sustainability. Schools opening longer, taking on younger children and offering greater holiday care will actually undermine the businesses of established child minders and reduce the potential business for new child minders. Parents who chose a child minder do so because they want their child cared for in a home environment with the flexibility that can be provided. How would a child minder be able to provide that home environment and link with schools in school buildings to support their services. How would a child minder caring for a six month old baby also be able to work in an after school facility provided by a school. The suggestions made of child minders to provide a more joined up service with schools does not understand that schools afterschool provisions are in direct competition with child minders services and are not easily joined up. If my local school extended their operating hours I could potentially lose business to the school thus affecting my sustainability, but more importantly the children would not get the homely environment or the home cooked hot meals I provide. They would instead be in classrooms, offered a snack, preventing them from truly relaxing and delaying their evening meal to potentially after 6pm which is not healthy for the child or their parents. This reform also does not address whether parents want their child to be cared for on school premises for possibly 10+ hours per day. All of the parents using my service are definitely against this proposal as it would appear are the majority of parents responding to a number of polls on the subject.

You end your letter with a statement that ‘This government knows that child minders have an important role to play in both supporting parents and improving outcomes for children’ but your statement, and the way these reforms are being introduced, does not show a government that recognises or values the professionalism, knowledge and experience child minders have. There has been very limited consultation with us as a profession regarding these proposals and the lack of information being provided on the actual details of the reforms shows a lack of respect for our profession and professionalism. I personally have three degrees, including a BA in Early Years, and feel patronised by the way my very valid questions have been ignored. I feel insulted by the government’s assumption that child minders need support to run their own businesses and to access professional development without actually asking us if this is true. I am disheartened by the department’s continual regurgitation of the same standardised information to every letter sent by child minders regarding the proposed agencies and am deeply concerned that the profession I love will be severely damaged by ill thought through, cost cutting measures disguised as an attempt to reduce costs to parents in order to force it into being. I also personally feel that my views are being used negatively, as I am not anti-agency, but I am pro-individual inspection not because of costs but because I want my profession to be viewed equally with pre-schools, nurseries and schools. The government’s plans will set child minders back professionally with its peers and with parents, taking us back to ‘baby sitters’ rather than professional educators and carers.

If this government truly want to recognise child minders and the important role we have to play, you will enter into true and open consultation with us as a profession. Bring together representatives from professional bodies, local child minder groups and pilot agencies and allow frank and honest debate. Having met with a pilot agency twice with my own local cluster group I can say that we all actually want the same thing, more and better qualified/supported child minders – we just may have different ideas on how this is best developed and legislated for.

From Jo Murray

Dear Ms Truss MP,

I am writing to you regarding your letter to all child minders dated 3rd February 2014. I feel very passionately about my profession and the way it is viewed and supported by local and national government. There was so much in your letter that I felt needed addressing that I will deal with each section using direct quotes.

In your opening paragraph you state ‘Government reforms designed to make it easier to work as a child minder and attract new people to this important profession’ – I do not see how any of the reforms being proposed actually will achieve this. The introduction of agencies will not alter the day to day practice required of a child minder other than agency child minders will not have their practice reinforced by the knowledge that Ofsted could knock on their door at any time to inspect them. Agencies will not be able to complete daily diaries or observations, track children’s progress, produce 2yr old development assessments or complete accident/incident/medication forms. The only way agencies may make it ‘easier’ is by providing standardised templates and documents for their child minders to use in either paper or computerised formats. These same templates and documents can already be sourced by child minders for free or for minor charges. Therefore the agencies are not providing a service that does not already exist and will be charging much higher fees than those services already available.

You go on to say ‘We are introducing the option of child minder agencies which can provide support for those child minders who are interested in this way of working’ – I am interested in how many child minders have stated they will join an agency when they are finally created as I have yet to meet a single child minder who is pro-agencies. I am a graduate, I have Early Years Professional Status, I am an accredited networked child minder,  I support out local child minders and have close links with my local Children’s Centre, who hold a list of local child minders and put parents who are looking for childcare in touch with us.  I am an active member on many online child minder groups, so am able to say with confidence that I speak with many child minders both locally and nationally on a regular basis and have not had a single person express an interest in joining an agency. You may feel that those of us who are very vocal about our concerns deter others from expressing their views, but I am very careful to always make clear that my views are exactly that, mine, and I am open to listening to any other views and opinions.

Your letter then goes on to deal with the specific reforms so I will share my views on your statements as such.

With regards to Making Early Education Funding Available I am saddened that the government is removing the need to be part of a network in order to deliver the early education places as this ensured that those offering this service were meeting a high standard of care and thorough knowledge of the EYFS.   I personally have delivered vulnerable two year old placement and enjoyed working with the parent and child involved.   I also have concerns that should child minder agencies be introduced, child minders within an agency rated good or outstanding by Ofsted will be able to deliver these places even if their own practice may not be of a high enough standard which will be difficult to judge without individual Ofsted inspection. The government can state that the agency will ensure that the child minders are of suitable quality but this surely goes against the governments own statement that they wanted Ofsted to be the sole arbitrator of quality when they made the decision to remove the quality assessments of the local authorities.

You make several points within the section Enabling the Creation of Child Minder Agencies which I feel very strongly need addressing:

  • ‘Establishing yourself as a child minder can be a complex and time consuming process’ – which in my opinion is as it should be. As child minders we are charged by parents to care for and educate their most precious and vulnerable child. People entering the profession should be highly committed, motivated and skilled. The processes in place ensure that the professionalism is maintained and that people enter it for the right reasons. An agency will not be able to shorten the length of time completing this process will take as it is frequently the DBS that holds up applications alongside completing the necessary courses. Agencies will not be able to set people up without the statutory requirements being in place so how do they reduce the process. As for the complexity of becoming a child minder, there are several professional bodies as well as local authority teams offering support, advice and business products to assist people entering the profession. These services are offered for free or at a much lower cost than the estimated figures being suggested by pilot agency reports. So I do not see how the child minder agencies will be offering anything that is not already available to anyone wishing to become a child minder unless the government is intending to make even greater Local Authority budget savings by removing all support offered via early years teams to child minders.
  • ‘Agencies will offer child minders access to training, including statutory training’ – again these services are already provided by Local Authorities, professional bodies and local groups. In Wiltshire we have great support from our local authority who offer lots of training and briefings for Child minders  in addition to this we have local child minding groups that also access training as a group.  In other areas our professional body PACEY support child minders in accessing training, especially in areas where Local Authority training was either removed or no longer subsidised. Having seen some of the expected costs of these training packages from a pilot agency I can say that they are greater than the costs of training that can be accessed via other providers and experienced/informed child minders will be very aware of this giving them no incentive to join an agency. As the government have also expressed that independent child minders will not be able to access agency services without fully joining the agency, a potential market for the agencies services that would help to reduce costs has been lost and independent child minders will source their training elsewhere. I also have to say, how long does the minister think agency child minders will remain registered with an agency for when they realise that they could reduce their overheads by becoming independently registered.
  • ‘Agencies are designed to make it easier for parents to find a child minder to suit their child’s needs’ – Again I have to ask how will they make it easier. There are already a variety of services including Family Information Services, online childcare sites, local online notice boards and other sources such as yellow pages that enable parents to find local child minders free of any charge. Agencies will be unable to operate this service without some costs to themselves therefore the costs will have to be recouped from either the parent, the child minder or both. This does not sit well with the governments agenda of reducing child care costs to parents or supporting the growth of child minding businesses. This service also does not take into account the ‘word of mouth’ aspect to how parents find child minders. Many of our parents contact us as we have been recommended by others. Agency child minders would have to refer these parents to the agency, thus generating a fee, before they would be able to offer the parent their services.
  • ‘Agencies… may be able to help with emergency cover’ – If wanted by the parents. In my experience, many child minders now work closely with colleagues to provide an emergency/holiday cover scheme themselves without the need for an agency. I have used another child minder in my group to take my children when I was recovering after surgery and I act as emergency cover for another colleague.  All the children in our group meet the other child minders on a regular basis and so when such emergencies occur the child is already familiar with the alternative carer.  Despite offering this service to parents using my child minding business, some parents do not feel comfortable leaving their child with a child minder not known to them. I have had parents refuse emergency care, preferring instead to make their own arrangements. It can be very distressing for a child to suddenly be sent to a new child minder in a new environment, and this service needs to be carefully looked at in relation to the needs of the child.
  • ‘Our proposals for agencies are about creating a new option for child minders and parents…not removing or replacing the role of independent child minders’ – but the way the introduction of agencies is being publicised implies that this change will improve on the current provision, not add to an already important and quality provision. The manner in which agencies are being described definitely implies that they are going to improve quality which thus suggests that current providers are not providing a good enough service. The way the training options that an agency can deliver is being portrayed implies that this is new or better training when in fact it is exactly what is already available to any child minder who chooses to source it for themselves. The quality of any support or training that can be provided by an agency is yet to be proved and therefore should not be being portrayed as better than current provision. Parents may also be misled by this implication that agency child minders will be better when currently it would appear that only new, therefore potentially inexperienced, child minders will have a reason to join agencies.
  • ‘choice to stay independent and register directly with Ofsted, or to join an agency’ – this creates a ‘them and us’ situation that results in distrust and the two tier system the government has been warned about by professional bodies. It also does not address the fact that some independent child minder may wish to purchase agency services, but not if it means having to give up their right to remain fully independent with their own individual Ofsted inspection. Cynics among us do feel that the introduction of child minder agencies allowed this government a way to remove individual inspections for child minders which was something many of fought hard against two years ago when it was first suggested by yourself. The reality is many child minders are not against the creation of child minder agencies as we see that they could be valuable to some child minders. What we are against is the fact that agency child minders will not be individually inspected by Ofsted thus their individual quality and suitability cannot be effectively judged. The only justification we can see for the government taking this decision is to reduce costs by only inspecting the agency rather than each individual agency child minder. This concerns many of us who see ourselves as professionals as we fear safeguarding of children within agency child minders will not be inspected and therefore assured in the same way as every other educational establishment, thus undermining the professionalism and status of child minders amongst our peers and with parents. If the government actually truly and openly consulted with us, you would have a clearer understanding of these concerns which your letter does nothing to alleviate.

With regards to your comments on Local Authority Networks and Support increasing the funding whilst at the same time removing the statutory responsibility to provide training and support defeats the purpose of increasing the funding and does nothing to reassure child minders that any funding will be allocated to helping them. In fact the opposite is occurring with early years teams being removed or reduced, subsidisation of training being reduced or removed and many child minders feeling ever more isolated in their professional development. You state that ‘only 10% of child minders are part of such a network’ – I think this is very misleading, Network Child minders were those child minders that had made the decision to become part of a network so that they could be allowed to access Funding for 3 and 4 year olds, this entailed in my area passing a Quality Assurance Scheme so that our setting (home environment) was suitable for the children and that our knowledge of the EYFS was good.  Many child minders, 90%, decided not to “put themselves through this rigorous process” but that doesn’t mean that they are not in touch with other child minders.  The majority of them meet up with other local child minders and are members of child minding groups – in my local area 55 % of all the child minders in the area belong to a child minding group, they are not isolated and they know how to access help and advice should they need it.  There will always be some child minders that are not interested in being part of networks, or groups and  access only the training that is a statutory requirement and do not participate in local cluster groups or drop-ins. Throwing additional funding into local authority pots without clear direction on how these funds should be used will not address the numbers of child minders not accessing support and additional professional training. The government should be consulting with professional bodies, local authorities AND child minders to look at best practice across the country and implementing greater early years team support schemes and peer support schemes. Introducing child minder agencies will not address the 90% who do not participate in networks and similar support schemes.

Your final point regarding working with Schools again conflicts with your statements about wanting to support child minder numbers and sustainability. Schools opening longer, taking on younger children and offering greater holiday care will actually undermine the businesses of established child minders and reduce the potential business for new child minders. Parents who chose a child minder do so because they want their child cared for in a home environment with the flexibility that can be provided. How would a child minder be able to provide that home environment and link with schools in school buildings to support their services? How would a child minder caring for a six month old baby also be able to work in an after school facility provided by a school. The suggestions made of child minders to provide a more joined up service with schools does not understand that schools afterschool provisions are in direct competition with child minders services and are not easily joined up. If my local school extended their operating hours I could potentially lose business to the school thus affecting my sustainability, but more importantly the children would not get the homely environment or the home cooked hot meals I provide. They would instead be in classrooms, offered a snack, preventing them from truly relaxing and delaying their evening meal to potentially after 6pm which is not healthy for the child or their parents. This reform also does not address whether parents want their child to be cared for on school premises for possibly 10+ hours per day. All of the parents using my service are definitely against this proposal as it would appear are the majority of parents responding to a number of polls on the subject.

You end your letter with a statement that ‘This government knows that child minders have an important role to play in both supporting parents and improving outcomes for children’ but your statement, and the way these reforms are being introduced, does not show a government that recognises or values the professionalism, knowledge and experience child minders have. There has been very limited consultation with us as a profession regarding these proposals and the lack of information being provided on the actual details of the reforms shows a lack of respect for our profession and professionalism. I personally have a Degree, hold Qualified Teacher Status and Early Years Professional Status, and feel patronised by the way my very valid questions have been ignored. I feel insulted by the government’s assumption that child minders need support to run their own businesses and to access professional development without actually asking us if this is true. I am disheartened by the department’s continual regurgitation of the same standardised information to every letter sent by child minders regarding the proposed agencies and am deeply concerned that the profession I love will be severely damaged by ill thought through, cost cutting measures disguised as an attempt to reduce costs to parents in order to force it into being. I also personally feel that my views are being used negatively, as I am not anti-agency, but I am pro-individual inspection not because of costs but because I want my profession to be viewed equally with pre-schools, nurseries and schools. The government’s plans will set child minders back professionally with its peers and with parents, taking us back to ‘baby sitters’ rather than professional educators and carers.

If this government truly want to recognise child minders and the important role we have to play, you will enter into true and open consultation with us as a profession. Bring together representatives from professional bodies, local child minder groups and pilot agencies and allow frank and honest debate. I do believe that the children of Great Britain deserve better qualified/supported child minders – we just may have different ideas on how this is best developed and legislated for.

From Sheron Wightman

Dear Ms Truss,

I feel compelled to contact you with regard to the proposed Childminding Agencies that are to set to commence this September.
As a working Childminder with 21yrs experience and currently holding an Outstanding grading, the proposition of either being forced into joining an Agency  to access affordable training and registration fees etc. or standing alone and having to pass on the extra costs to parents who can ill afford it appals me.
The greatest concern of mine is that we are being told the Agencies will be graded and not the individual Childminders, this will lead to a substandard level of professional care as I do not believe that all will naturally come under the same umbrella.  The situation of Ofsted being bogged down with visiting inadequate/good childminders currently in an effort to bring overall standards up should be a warning!! rather than going down the route of herding everyone together to lessen their load.  Parents will then have to rely on being given honest details of individuals within these agencies and I am sure that somewhere along the line there must be costs incurred for both the parent and the Childminder or how will these Agencies fund themselves?
The doors will be wide open to criticism if the expected high standards are not be maintained, resulting in the professional status some have worked so hard to attain being dragged through the mire again should ‘god forbid’ any misfortune occur.  It has taken years for us to be recognised as a “Professional Service” rather than “Babysitters” of long ago and I would like this to continue without having to worry about what other people are doing.
Are there to be strict guidelines over who may operate there Agencies, as Childminding offers a specific type of care unlike nurseries or pre-schools so it needs to be run by people who have an understanding of how this operates and the flexibility that comes with diverse parental needs.
I think it is a total waste of time and do not see the benefit to our profession, and rather than encourage more childcare providers I think it will have the adverse effect, with many leaving rather than having to join the masses and lose their independent status or alternatively needing to absorb/pass on the high costs to stand alone.  Why try and mend what is not broken!!!
From Brittany Horton

Dear Ms Truss

I am writing to you to express my opinion on the introduction of agencies.

I have been a childminder for 2 years in sheffield and feel very saddened by the lack of consultation to us with regard to your plan.

I feel agencies will have a negative effect on the childcare system. At the moment ofsted are our port of call and I feel this works. Parents know who to deal with and where to go with complaints etc. Ofsted are a countrywide recognised name. My LA are amazing. They give me support when needed and offer courses and ways for me to further develop thus making my practice the most upto date it can be and being able to offer advice to parents and give them the best knowledge I can. They were great at helping me start up and gave me great support throughout the process as well as giving me an ear to listen and guidance in any query I had or problem that arose. I feel that it would be a disregard for children’s well being by removing this system.

Secondly I received a good at my first Ofsted inspection. I work really hard to give the children I care for a home from home environment and this is received warmly by my happy little ones and the constant positive response from parents, and prospect parents who come and visit, which I feel will be lost if agencies come in. I will be very sad if I have maintained a good childcare environment to which will basically be removed if agencies come in as the grading will be to the agency. I don’t see how this is a good reflection of each individual? We are all individual in our are care in lots of ways and we will loose our identity by all being branded by 1 agency. This will be a poor reflection to parents and not enable each childminders skills to be shown.

I also feel that there has been a great loss in childminders throughout the years due to introduction of the EYFs (which I support) the reform of the EYFs, and now this. I feel that more childminders will leave their job when agencies come in as this is what many have told me they intend to do, thus having a shortage in childcare spaces and this is a massive injustice to the little ones who deserve the best start.

I can only speak on my behalf to which I believe that the way we work now with contact with our LA,s works and gives a great community based childcare network for parents and childminders alike. We are offered great platforms for progression by sheffield childcare team and there fore we can all choose how far we take our settings.

Conclusively I feel that there is not enough information being given to how agencies will work. Cost, process, gradings, prospect clients, our choices to keep our individuality, how much choice and say we will have on how we run, how will it effect parents, how will you maintain parent partnerships through this process etc and I think that this is vital information that we should know, after all we are going to be one of the main people effected by this.

From Sue Wynne – Jones

Dear Ms Truss

I write to stress that I am totally against agencies!  Why would I, as an established childminder, used to running my own business, doing my own accounts and paperwork, with a level 3 and a qualification in the EYFS, getting my own clients,through word of mouth and accessing first class training through my local PACEY group, want an agency telling me what to do and how to do it!!

You have stated that agencies will reduce costs to parents, but as WE all know, this would not happen, as the costs of joining the agency would have to be passed on to parents.. I expect you thought that somehow, we would just absorb them?  How, when we only charge (in my area) £3.50-£4 per hour?!!!

As for the agency rating being passed on to all the childminders….why would the ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ childminders want to trust the agency to maintain their hard-earned grading, when they are able to do it themselves.

Please do your research properly, before forcing through your ill thought out ideas. I thought the conservatives supported free enterprise?  Thanks for tying to ruin my business!

Finally I feel that the outcomes of our littles ones should be at the forefront of all decisions made to childcare reforms and feel this thought has been neglected with this proposition.

From Elizabeth Manning

Dear Miss Truss I am writing this letter to let you know I am 100% against agencies Why do you feel the need to interfere with something that has worked well for years? I have been a registered childminder for over 20 years I am self employed I don’t need a agency to tell me how to work what hours to do holidays to have what  parents or children to look after I have managed my own advertising choosing my parents and them choosing me I have built up a very good reputation over the years managed my accounts and training all this has taken a lot of hard work and dedication for you to now come along and wanting agencies to take over and charge beteen 600 and 1200 pounds a year, I don’t earn a fortune and can not justify that amount bring down costs to parents how ? its a no from me

From Joanna Camerer – Cuss

Dear Mrs Truss I have been a SELF EMPLOYED ChIldminder for 18 years. I decided to run my own business and like any self employed person undertook the paperwork, legislation and training needed to do it (all of which is ongoing). Baring in mind most people who choose to become self employed wether they are an electrician, builder or ChIldminder work hard to set up their business and would not want to go back to working for someone else. All the ChIldminder’s I know are hardworking dedicated people who have worked hard to build up their own businesses and I don’t know one of them who would join an agency. Why would we? An agency will add an unnecessary cost to our running costs and as most ChIldminder’s struggle to keep our prices reasonable as we understand how difficult it is for parents who work, so an agency will be an extra cost for ChIldminder’s and parents. We do not want agencies. What is the point of agencies? In the future how will a prospective parent fine childcare? Who will they go to? Which agency? Will they get the whole choice of ChIldminder’s in the area? At the moment they look on the family information or OFSTED website but it agency ChIldminder do not have an individual inspection how will they know how good they are. So agencies will muddle a good existing system. If a new ChIldminder joins an agency as they think it is the easy option, someone else so sort the paperwork and training etc, how good a ChIldminder will they be especially if they are not individually inspected by OFSTED? I can not think of one good reason why anyone would want to join a agency unless they wanted a easy life which makes me wonder how hardworking and dedicated they would be as ChIldminder’s. I will not join an agency.

From L Landymore

Dear Liz Truss,

Thank you for bothering to write to us childminders about your plans for us as of Sept ’14. I feel that this is too late in the proceedings of agencies for people to want to be on your side and thinking this is a good thing. I’m not very good with wording things correctly and lack confidence in sharing my opinion but wanted to add my thoughts and respond to your letter, as I feel this is my right, so please forgive any errors in my letter.

You state in your letter that funding is going to be made available. We were told the funding had run out, which is why local authorities had to pull their support and the valuable resource of sure start centres were taken away. Magically, there is funding? Why could this not have gone to the LAs so that we could continue providing the high service we already have been? with the LAs, childminders have been able to set up and run very successful businesses without an agency. This seems just like your way of privatizing the industry to remove it from the public sector. Nothing to do with making things better, as it was already working well. Everything you state in your letter was already provided by LAs or ourselves as childminders. The only thing not provided was cover for if we were ill, but no parent wants their child dumped on another minder they don’t know just because their usual minder is ill.

As for agencies being registered with OFSTED, OFSTED are so inconsistent with their gradings – look at inspection reports and letters to OFSTED about the unfair ways different inspectors are working. This won’t change in agencies. We also don’t want a blanket grade. I worked hard for my grade. Will another minder  work as hard?

you say that this is a choice, which at present it does appear that way, but how long till it isn’t? Its becoming increasingly impossible to be independent now that the LAs have no funding to support us. Very clever, remove the funding making it difficult to remain independent therefore leaving us with no choice but to register with an agency… Well played…!

all this magical money appearing would have better been spent on supporting areas in the uk that haven’t had as good support, rather than changing everyone. Not every council was as lucky as we have been to have had such good support from the LA. The money you are wasting with this agency proposals would have been better spent on helping those LAs struggling to support minders.

As for the schools, don’t get me started. No parent wants their child in school more. What would be the point in having children?! we’d never see them?! How can you ignore this?!

local schools don’t want to work with childminders any differently to how they already are. We have an agreement that already works for wrap around care. Schools, minders and parents were happy. There is not a childcare crisis, except the ones you created since cutting funding and introducing agencies, ignoring petitions not to!

The whole process has been carefully laid out, to keep us in the dark, you have made decisions ignoring the public views, you’ve taken research from countries that fit what you want, not from other countries who work in a different way. Even now, the costings of agencies and the trials have not ascertained how they’ll work and the benefit of agencies, yet you’re sill going ahead with them. Our trial here has done nothing. All over the uk, people either are against agencies or know nothing of them because the government has once again planned so well how to release minimal information. There was a survey this week released to gauge parent views on agencies and costings. Parents don’t know about them and can’t believe the fees they’ll be expected to pay!!!

Agencies will profit from childminders and parents. Childminders will need to increase their fees to join the agencies therefore making childcare more expensive! Fail on your part!

When are you going to listen to the public? What will now happen is that some agencies will start their happy businesses  making their thousands at the expense of minders and parents and sadly they will mostly succeed because you have made it difficult to be independent so that your plan works. You will get results that say, you did the right thing and the public will be once again be out of pocket and wonder why they bother to vote or try to have a voice!

Childminders DO NOT feel valued by you. We feel ignored and mislead and in some aspects lied to.

I think its a sorry state of affairs and leaves me wondering what else the government does without public support or in such a hidden manner that noone even knows what’s going on?!

 

3 responses to “Part SIX – We are all saying ‘NO to childminding agencies’

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  1. Hi Penny,

    Following your posts from Florida.

    To Elizabeth Truss: I’m English and have lived here in America for 41 years. I’m a British trained teacher of the 3-7s and have been working in early care and education for the past 36 years.

    This ‘Childcare Agency’ business is an abysmal state of affairs! It just shows that around the world there is so much ignorance about the needs of young children. I can see some need for bureaucracy but only if it can make a difference in the well being and safety of the children. This just sounds like another expensive layer of bureaucracy to me.

    Child care around the world is costly yet workers are most often poorly paid for one of the most important jobs there is! We do it for the love of the children, for our belief in loving children and offering continuity of high quality of care (that’s what kept me in low paying jobs for many years!).

    Here in America only the poor get subsidised but the level of care isn’t that great. I’ve worked in Montessori daycares here (providing for 6 weeks to 6 years) where there were so many factors that weren’t legal, or the owner chose to pay fines for points where the school failed, and yet the county inspectors (really just inspecting the premises and records not the actual caregiving) still approved them! In one case the Fire Department (who is also Building and Zoning overseer) recommended that a gate be installed for egress in the event of an emergency (fire) – that hasn’t been done or followed up on in over 4 years to my knowledge.

    The negligence of children for any reason is unconscionable, especially when a government or one of its agencies is responsible.

    Have you ever worked in early care Ms Truss? I suggest not.

    I do hope you will consider what these trained, dedicated and responsible childminders have to say.

    Thank you, Helen Rubin

    • Thank you Helen – I have taken the liberty of copying this and posting it in part seven of these blogs – and I will also print it and hand it in person to Ms. Truss

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

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