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

Well, I thought that I had added all the letters in part six – but since then even more people have been in touch to say they want their letter included – so here are some more letters that are all against childminding agencies.

Please can I remind readers, that I will be very happy to add a blog with letters from those in favour of childminding agencies – it is just that so far I have not had any.

From Sue Viner

Dear Ms Truss

I have not yet personally received the letter from you about Agencies but have seen it on the internet.

I FAIL TO SEE HOW THE INTRODUCTION OF AGENCIES IS GOING TO BE OF BENEFIT TO ANYONE OR HOW THEY ARE GOING TO SAVE PARENTS MONEY.

Many of us have asked you this many times and you have failed to answer this question.

You go on and on about how you think they would work but you have not faced the fact that the thousands of already Registered Child minders do not want to belong to Agencies .

I have been a Self-employed Registered Child minder for over 21 years.  I have attained Outstanding Ofsted and I am an Accredited child-minder.  I am qualified to provide Nursery Education funding and I care for Care to Learn children.

I have achieved this by myself with the support of other like minding people and our Local Authority.

I have never needed and will not need the intervention of an Agency to find me work or training courses.

Somehow you seem to feel that the introduction of Agencies will save parents money !!

How can this be?    If we join we have to pay a fee  to a third party which would mean an increase in our fees. If the parents have to pay to find childcare obviously this in an increase to them.

I do not want to be put in a box and have my inspection judgement based on other people. I wish to keep my Independence and be judged solely on my efforts.  I feel strongly that everyone should have a separate inspection.  All my children have come to me by recommendation and I wish it to remain that way.

I will not be joining an Agency thank you very much.

From a parent who uses a childminder

Dear Ms Truss

I am the first time mother of a one year old boy. Making the decision about childcare provision upon my return to work was one of the most difficult I have had to make as an adult. Accordingly I did my research and found an excellent childcare setting, an ofsted outstanding childminder.

I wanted my son to be in a homely environment with a key adult figure in his life when I wasn’t there. I have found that. His childminder and her assistant work exceptionally hard. They are educated experienced professionals which means I respect what they do and the exceptional value they provide compared to nurseries.

The small group he is in provides sufficient socialisation without him being overlooked. On a daily basis I receive photos and diaries by email, completed late into the evening. Sometimes photos are sent to my husband and I during the working day which is reassuring and personal. This is the best childcare I could have found. I have gone back into the workforce without difficulties as a result. Something we would hope all women who choose to return to work experience.

Accordingly I am hugely dismayed by government proposals on the introduction of agencies. The ability to deal directly and personally with my childminder from the outset meant I was able to use my experiences to make an enormously important decision. Why do we need to increase cost and bureaucracy in this area? I understood we were trying to save costs, improve efficiency and drive up standards of childcare. Removing individual ofsted inspections will not assist in this regard. Forcing childminders to bear more costs for an unrequired service is illogical and counter productive as more will leave the role.

From Helen Rubin 

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.

From Vicky Read

Dear Ms Truss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It feels that is so many questions so little time.

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

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

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

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

If there are arguments in favour to which that I am not currently privy, I would be grateful to hear them so that I can make as informed a choice as I did when I chose my childminder to look after my son.

From Caroline Spencer

Good day to you Ms Truss,

I am voicing my heartfelt concerns regarding the decision to having “Agencies” over seeing professional child minders.

I began child minding nineteen years ago when the requirements to becoming a child minder were a visit from the local council and all that was needed was a stair gate!

Since then many new legislations have been put upon us to bring our care into line with other child care professional settings.  This has meant child minders gaining Level 3 qualifications and above. Attending endless training courses in our own time and costs and above all providing individual and in my opinion the “best” care a young child can receive suited to the family and the individual child.
This is the most area I am extremely concerned about.  At the present the parent can look for child care,  visit the facilities and meet the minder. Choosing one they feel comfortable with.  This works for the minder too.  Child minding  business’s that thrive and are successful are the ones that have and have had excellent relationships with parents.  To do this there has to be an element of feel good factor between the minder and parent/child at the time of interview.  Yes, we do have interviews for both parties concerned.  The lack of maybe a mutual liking between parent/carer will undoubtedly have a serious adverse affect on the child and children within the setting.  From my experience relationships with parents need to be good ones.

My concern that an Agency could place any child with a child minder horrifies me.  Children will suffer from this and so will the child minder.  Our job is extremely full on, exasperating at times and physically and mentally very hard.  I cannot begin to explain how stressful it can be just keeping a child from falling over!  The added pressure of having a child or parents a minder feels would be happier in another setting would, I have no doubt, end many an excellent “Outstanding” child minders career!

Many of my child minding colleagues have worked extremely hard in building up their own business’s over many years.  Some spending hours studying even though they have their own young children to care for. In order to provide excellent, quality professional care delivered in wonderful homely settings.   To  place an “Agency” in control of child minders would be to deflate our self esteem, undermine our efforts and abilities to run successful business’s.
From Janis Philmore

I have read your letter to all of ‘us’ childminders and I want to take this opportunity to ask you one more time to please abandon this ill thought out idea.  I don’t want agencies.  I don’t want to join one and I don’t want one to be my competition either.  I have yet to meet anyone who is in favour of agencies.

It’s not too late to back down and admit you are wrong.
From Claire Ingham

Dear Ms Truss

It is with passion and regret that I feel I have to put pen to paper about the childminding agencies implementation from September 2014.

I am an Ofsted registered childminder with a first grading of Good and I have worked extremely hard to build a successful and reputable business in the area that I live in.

I live extremely remote and Lincolnshire has already removed our development workers and has very little support networks so the news has been very slowly drip fed to me.  Now you may feel that with a statement like above I would support the implementation of the agencies for the support being returned to my area, however I am fully against the proposal.

We are a democratic country with a right to freedom of speech and we have a government that are supposed to be actively encouraging enterprise and small business and this proposal goes against all  of the above mentioned factors.

The agencies are being forced upon us, even though you say that it is totally voluntary to join, but by making the training, and funding difficult to access if we do not join  and the independent Ofsted fees for childminders to be raised to an amount that any childminder is going to find difficult to budget for, is taking away our democratic choice.  As I mentioned before I do not live in a city and can not charge £7 per hour plus for my childminding services, the fees of in between £700 -£1200 for an inspection are totally unplausible for myself and many other childminders.

You state that, in your letter dated 3rd Febraury 2014 to all childminders, we will be able to remain self employed should we so wish, however please explain how we will be able to still set out our fees to the agencies and how they will still be able to cover their expenses, at some point in the future I can see that the agencies will force employment upon us, set the fees to cover their costs, and expect us to work for a pittance or charge the parents more, which in turn will be totally impossible for a parent to be able to afford the child care that their child deserves.  In turn the folding of enterprise and small businessess.

By using an agency, parents will only be informed of a small percentage of the business which will be inspected, not all childminders will be inspected that work for the agency, so therefore, even if the agency received a Good grading, the parent may unwilling be matched to a childminder that is not as efficient, as any other childminders in that agency, so therefore, the parent could, unwillingly, be putting their child at risk.  My believe is that this proposal to join an agency will be used by under performing childminders only, who just see the job as money and have no care, passion or forthought for the children in their care.  A good or outstanding childminder will want to stay independent as they are proud of what they are doing, are passionate about their career, but you are going to give those childminders no option than to choose a different career path, or sit at home and put further stress on the benefit systems.

The clock is very much ticking on the agency implementation and still we have no real answers to the costs, implication to parents, paperwork and more importantly the children.

Parents and childminders alike are not really well enough informed for the agencies to work effectively.  I for one will not be ever joining an agency and I will do my upmost to fight for my independence as a childminder, and a succesful small business.

I will be informing my parents of the pitfalls around the agency proposals, as I know many of my parents are living hand to mouth as far as the finances are concerned and will not/cannot afford to register and pay agencies fees.

I am not opposed to changes, changes have to be made to improve our businesses, our economic growth and our country, but this is one change that is not good for parents, children, businesses, and the democratic rights of the people of this country.  I implore you to consider the voice of all us great child minders.

From Carol Messenger

Dear Ms Truss,

Re CHILDMINDING AGENCIES

I would like to see the evaluations of the trials  and proposed models as soon as possible as I need to read these to confirm or change my own personal feelings and thoughts as to the future of my career, my business and my passion for childcare and early years education.

At present I have serious doubts and concerns that an agency model would work, there are so many aspects that whichever way I look at it, I come across ideas that horrify me.

PACEY is my professional membership organisation and I trust them to work on my behalf to resolve the situation for childminders and the children and families we work with.

From Mary Hewson

Dear Ms Truss
I am writing to express my concerns regarding the introducation of childminder agencies.
I have been registered since 1999 I am graded outstanding.
I also deliver early years funding also two year old funding. I also work with teenage pregnancy .
I also take lot’s of training. We have fantastic support from our early years team also pacey.
I run a tot’s group also childminding group we meet once a week and support each other.
All my work comes from recommendation from previous parents I am very lucky to be always full lot’s of my very good childminder friends are struggling at the moment not enough children in our aera.
I do not understand the need for childminder agencies to create more childcare spaces really do not think you live in the real world.
I attend to stay indepentdent you will end up Ms Trust childminders accessing inferior training.They is nothing wrong how ofsted regulate. If agencies are brought in it will create a two tier system that will lead to confusion and weakening of confidance in the ever important stystem for keeping children safe.
Certain people will abuse the system for keeping children safe. I will stay independent as I see is is the only pathway to ensure quality provision across the board. I really do hope you read all letters what are being written by excellent childminders and taking our views on board.

From Claire Brunner

Dear Ms Truss

I am writing to express my concerns regarding the current proposals for the introduction of childminding agencies and the implications of this both for quality of provision and more specifically for child safety.

My problems with the agency model are:
1. It won’t work for children – Ofsted will be saving government money by registering and inspecting the agency not the individual childminders. Uninspected settings are potentially unsafe settings. With agency childminders no longer receiving individual gradings, how can parents be confident that the individual childminder delivering the Free Entitlement is competent to do so?
2. It won’t work for parents. Their childminder won’t be individually inspected or graded, giving them no guarantee of either safety or quality of education and care. A model where the Ofsted grading is given to the agency (which grading of course directly impacts their ability to offer FEEE) does not provide too much incentive for rigorous inspection of the childminders within that agency.
3. It won’t work to reduce costs – parents and childminders will be paying to support the agency, which will be filling a role that currently is free to both. Childcare costs will inevitably rise. There is currently little cost involved in attracting clients for most childminders, if indeed any at all. Equally there is little cost for parents in finding childcare.
4. It won’t work for childminders. We have pride in our settings, they run the way they do because we believe that the free-range home-based mixed-age group provides the best learning experiences for Early Years children in all areas of development. We value individual regulation and inspection of our settings by Ofsted. We value too the support, information and training provided by the Local Authorities and the links that provides with other areas of the sector. No childminder of any quality at all is going to be happy that their setting is not assessed and graded on its own merits but on that of the agency.
5. I cannot see any way in which an agency is going to be able to convincingly replace the expertise and experience and sector-wide perspective of Local Authority support and training teams.

I consider the education and safety of our youngest children to be ill-served by these proposals. I cannot see any way in which they will raise either quality of provision or parental choice – and I fail to see how they can possibly deliver the savings to parents that they promise.

I would very much appreciate an answer to these points – I understand that you will be receiving a lot of letters today. It would be nice to think that you will find the time to read them all, and even draft a reply to some. And while I do understand that agencies will not be compulsory, an answer to the issues raised here nonetheless be very greatly valued.

From Samantha Street

Dear Ms Truss, 

 
This isn’t going to be a long email. I am a registered childminder, and I care for three under 5’s, and a further 8 school-aged children, spread over 5 days a week from 7am and 7pm. I am a very busy person, as are most childminders. This is without the additional responsibility of caring for my own household.
 
So just one question – I would just like to ask how introducing agencies, and their fees, are going to make childcare cheaper for the parents? I have worked as a childminder for 7 years, and this is the first year I have achieved an income equivalent to the legal minimum wage. If forced to join an agency, I will not be paying for it out of my very small profit, but will be passing it on to the parents. 

One response to “Part Seven – 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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