Part Eight – We are all saying ‘No to childminding agencies’   2 comments

People are still giving permission for their letters to Elizabeth Truss to be included in my blogs – and so I will continue to add them – as I think it is very important that everyone has the opportunity to have their letter added – and for it to be read by others.

From Margaret O’Donnell

Ms Truss, Can you please answer the numerous questions on your facebook site and tell childminders just what benefits there would be to them ceasing to be independent? A lot of us have been independently running our own businesses for many years. We have been individually inspected by Ofsted and have continued to educate ourselves far and beyond the compulsory courses. I myself have a Foundation Degree in the Care and Education of Children. Why don’t you tell us how much it will cost to join an agency and will this then mean that we no longer have to pay for courses, Ofsted, and insurance. You have told us nothing to convince us. Some childminders don’t even know that agencies are being piloted. Why the secrecy? If it’s such a good thing why is it not being sold to us? How can it possibly be cheaper to parents if they have to pay to access agencies? How will they know the difference between one childminder and another? As childminders are adults they also have the ability to vote for governments and governments are supposed to work for the people who vote for them and also for those that vote for the other party. In effect they should be ‘the servants’ of the British people, but the way things are going we do not live in a democracy. We live under a dictator who pays no attention to the views of the voter. Therefore there is no need to vote if your voice is to be constantly ignored. How can people like yourself and other members of your government condemn other regimes in other countries when you are no better than they are?

From Sue Blackman

Dear Ms Truss

Re your letter dated 3rd February, which I have read on line as I have yet to receive my personal copy.

As a childminder of 28years I am appalled by your proposals of the introduction of childminding agencies and your ideas of why you are doing so.

I know that at present you have stated that it is entirely voluntary to join an agency, but for how long!!!Until you decide otherwise and at what cost!!!!.

I fail to understand how childminder agencies will fill your expectations of delivering more affordable and higher quality childcare care, any childminder signing up for an agency would have to pay a fee to do so and this would eat into their profits so most would have no alternative but to pass on the costs via higher charges to parents.

Agencies in reality would be profit making organisations and as such assessing the quality of the childminders in the agency would surely sometimes meet with a  conflict of interests and would seemingly be open to areas of abuse, that in turn could led to actual quality of care been diminished as agency staff work towards making their agency appear good.

Why would childminders who have worked hard over the years establishing their own successful businesses and have their own Ofsted grading to show parents as evidence of their good practice want to share an agencies overall grading. I could see may be new childminders or childminders, who are not keen on preparing for own Ofsted inspections, might like to hide under the umbrella grading of an agency.

I fail to understand how by becoming a member of an agency will reduce the burden of paperwork for a childminder. Agency staff are not going to be on hand daily to write up children’s diaries /learning journal/observations. Agency staff although able to produce  templates for policies /procedures, are not going to be on hand to change some of the wording etc to meet the childminders individual setting. Agency staffs are not going to be on hand to fill in children 2year old progress forms, write a childminders updated information to parents.

All in all your idea of agencies for childminders and reasons for introducing them is ill conceived. I have yet to speak to any childminding colleagues who are in favour of your agency idea, and I urge you to listen to those of us who care greatly and are passionate about the delivery of high quality childcare before your ideas do truly mess up or even destroy the childminding profession.

From Jacqueline White

Dear Ms Truss,

I am writing with regard to Childminding Agencies, and am, I have to admit, a little confused.   Firstly, could you please explain how such Agencies will reduce costs for parents?  I currently charge £120 for a five day week – 7:0am until 6:0pm – £2.18 per hour.  Yes, I appreciate that if I have a full quota of children this will increase, but in this current economic climate no-one can be sure of job security.   Can you please give a straightforward answer to where the savings will be made?  Agencies are going to be an unnecessary ‘third party’, and as a business they will expect a profit for their “services” – WHERE will the saving be?

I would also like an explanation as to why Agency Childminders will not be individually inspected by Ofsted.  This is the ONLY way a parent can make a judgement with regard to someone whom they have never met.  Word of mouth does provide another way, but only if used by friends / work colleagues.   Ofsted are (supposedly) an independent, impartial body who inspect Individual Registered Childminders (and those who provide Care on Domestic Premises) alongside Nursery School provision.  As a Registered Childminder, I have worked very hard to be at a level plane with Nursery settings, and this is something that all Childminders should aspire to.  We provide the same (if not more) than Nursery settings – and have done so successfully (Outstandingly in many cases).  In my personal opinion an Agency will have a clear conflict of interests between achieving a profit, and ensuring the high standards of their Childminders – it will come at a cost, and who will bear this cost?  Will an Agency be able to ‘pick and choose’ who they put forward for Inspection, or will Ofsted?  In whichever case, an Agency may have 5% of their Childminders at Outstanding, yet the other 95% could be Satisfactory / Requires Improvement.  Who will be at risk?  Our youngest and most vulnerable children…    I can imagine the headlines that the National Press will use if this were to be the case.  We have seen it all before.  We cannot put our children at risk of low quality childcare.   Are you prepared for such headlines, Ms Truss?  I don’t believe a year has gone by, recently, when there has not been some tragedy or scandal that has occurred with regard to our Early Years – are you prepared to bear such consequences when an Agency is more interested in Profit than the actual service providers care?

Furthermore, having been the subject of malicious unfounded allegations, myself, in the last few years, how would Ofsted deal with such things in the future?  How are the public going to report actual poor practice?  The public will not know which Agency the Childminder belongs to, nor will Ofsted know – Safeguarding practice will be extremely hard to monitor.

Where am I, as an Independently Registered Childminder, going to access training?  How will I be able to continue my Professional Development?  I have worked full time hours, yet continued to a Foundation Degree, and further, with the Open University – has this been a total waste of time and effort?  I am proud of my achievements, but I also recognize that qualifications are not the ‘be all and end all’ and that quality of care can not be judged ‘on paper’.  I always tell my parents that you get a feel for the setting – whether with myself, or elsewhere – Agencies are going to remove that initial gut instinct for both parents and settings.  As an Individual I (as others) know instinctively whether or not a parent would be suitable to my setting, or whether I should suggest another.

There are many more questions which require answering before you turn Englands young children, and their care, into a joke for the rest of the World to laugh at.  If you have any respect, at all, for any of your current Individually Registered Childminders then I urge you to listen to them (and the many professionals who have voiced concerns)…  PLEASE! Before it’s too late.

From Linda Jennings

Letter from Elizabeth Truss

1st paragraph

Nothing new whatsoever, the fact is that local authorities have had a statutory duty to support childminders but many have chosen not to. It’s this that needs addressing!

Early education

There are valid concerns that Ofsted want to be the sole arbiters of quality yet many have not had an inspection for more than 4 years.

There is the strong possibility that some children will not make any progress as they will be placed with weaker providers.

Agencies

There is no evidence to show that this will increase the numbers of childminders.

If it is difficult to register it’s because it’s a very difficult job and many local authorities have had to cut back on the training and support to register that they have provided in the past.

In the last year we haven’t heard anything about how agencies could find enough income to provide the support, advice, monitoring and training that agencies will need to deliver. As a stand alone business model it can only come from the childminders or the parents.

The fact that individual childminders will not be inspected, only a sample, will not give parents the confidence they need when placing their child. Children will be put at risk. Ultimately, if fewer places are taken up then the numbers of childminders will drop further.

It’s not clear if the cost of registering or remaining Ofsted registered has not been given although the question has been asked many times.

While there may be trials, no one can effectively conduct a pilot because the legislation doesn’t support that so I don’t think their findings will give a good picture.

Local authority support

As far as I can tell, there is no new funding for childminders support and your letter does not state this. The increase to local authorities is to pay for the extension of two year old funding. If local authorities have not supported childminders in the past then they are not likely to set aside funds from the designated schools grant, especially when your office has criticised them in the past for not adequately funding providers in the hourly rate for delivering 3&4 year old places.

There is plenty of evidence to show that childminder networks have improved quality and better outcomes for children. Yet funding has been cut and there is now no obligation for networks to be developed. So why abandon something which you have said works well for something which is clearly flawed, untested properly and which the entire profession is against? Is it about increasing the numbers of good quality childminders and making it easier for parents? No, it’s about saving money! Unfortunately quality costs and the government isn’t prepared to pay so you’ve picked up on an idea from the Netherlands and tried to make it work here. Unfortunately it clearly doesn’t work, parents complained and children were put at risk.

Working with schools

This is nothing new! Do you seriously think that this is not happening?

Finally, you are doing nothing to support childminders, you want to hand it over to private agencies! Childminders and the organisations that support them have worked so hard for them to be seen as childcare professionals on the same level as other providers and this legislation and your quick fix ways of saving money and getting two year olds bums on seats will undo all that.

From Trudy Minns

Dear Ms Truss,

I am yet to receive a letter from you regarding the childminding agencies, but I have had the chance to read one, and I cannot see how they are going to improve the care that I give the children I care for nor can I see how they are going to reduce the cost of childcare.

I have been childminding for over 3 years now, and have worked very hard to build up MY little business, and now have my husband working with me and have 18 families and 20 children on my register, not one of my parents want anything to change.

I have earned my grade and I alone want to keep my grade on my merits and not be grouped together with others. I have no intention of joining an agency and if they become compulsory then I will leave the profession that I love and in turn will be letting 18 parents down and them then having to find other care for their children. I have parents on my waiting list and parents who have booked me 6 months in advance of them needing childcare upon recommendations from others who are or have used my setting, and on my merit and not the merit of others.

Please, please, please listen to the people who do this job on a daily basis.

From Shirleen Dowell

Dear Ms Truss

I am a registered childminder and have been since April 2007, I have received 2 inspections and on both occasions I was graded GOOD.

I had already gained a Level 3 Diploma in Childcare & Education and I wanted to become a Teaching Assistant but then I thought I have far more to offer as a childminder. I did all the initial courses that were expected before registering and was able to access support from my local authority early years team, other childminders and by attending further training. Parents found my childminding service offered affordable, flexible home based childcare – which I have found to be the preferred option for most parents.

In 2009 my work as a childminder was recognised by Early Years and they put me forward for Nursery World – Childminder of the Year, I was short listed to 1 of 5 through-out the whole of the country. I didn’t win but it was such an honour to be nominated as they recognised how well I worked as a childminder and also how well I worked alongside other agencies (speech therapists, social services & health visitor).

I am a professional childminder and I am very passionate about my work as a childminder.

To help others and myself I volunteer as a secretary for our local Childminding group and also Pacey West Midlands Regional Organising Committee. I along with others help to organise information sharing sessions/workshops/training and fun days for the childminding children to enjoy. Pacey – also offer a fantastic peer to peer support for childminders.

I cannot understand how the concept of an agency will work??

The Government wants to reduce childcare costs to parents. How is it going to be cheaper for parents to go through an Agency? Somebody will have to pay the ‘Agency’! The agency will charge either the parents or the childminders a fee.

At present parents don’t have this additional cost and if it is passed on to the childminder then we will have to raise our fees to cover it. One way or another it will be more expensive for parents.

I do not believe that there will be confidence in the quality of care and early education offered by childminders as part of an Agency. The less able childminders will benefit from the more able childminders experience and reputations. The more able childminders will suffer as a result of being associated with the less able childminders.

I wish to remain Self Employed as I am extremely pleased with how I operate my business and still wish to receive an Individual Inspection,

I DO NOT WANT TO JOIN AN AGENCY – if the time comes that we are forced to join an agency then I would be looking for new employment.

2 responses to “Part Eight – 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

  2. I would be VERY interested to know how many people have recieved an reply from Ms Truss ? I wrote to her recently and was very unhappy then i recieved a reply from one of her staff! What is the point in writing to childmidners if she isn’t going to bother reading our comments!

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