The DfE Childminder Agency Step by Step Guide   3 comments

In my last blog about the Ofsted Childminder Agencies Handbook CLICK HERE IF NOT READ YET , I commented that the DfE had not published any new information – despite saying they had.

Well it seems I was a little too quick off the mark – and looked before they had had chance to do so!

So here it is the DfE Childminder Agency Step by Step Guide (if you have not seen it yet) Link to DfE site


So I expect you are all wondering the same as I was …..

…… Is this the document that sets out those robust regulations and requirements that will reassure those who are concerned that Childminder Agencies will not be high quality and will not achieve the Governments admirable, but ill thought out aims?

Is this the document that sets out expectations about services and level of support?


Sorry to disappoint – but the answer is NO – that’s right A HUGE NO


In fact, I have to admit that although I read the first few pages very carefully by page 8 (of a 47 page document) – I had lost to will to read in depth any more – and just scanned the pages – in the hope that some reassuring words would ‘jump off the page’ – but they didn’t.


Why – you may be asking?

You may be saying ‘But Penny, we rely on you to unpick and digest and translate Government documents into easy to understand language – surely this document is vital – and we all need to understand the ‘MUSTS’ and the ‘SHOULDS’ ………..


WELL – Dear reader, that is the problem – there are very few ‘MUSTS’ or ‘SHOULDS’ – the document is full of ‘MAY’. ‘MIGHT’ and ‘COULD’ – let me give you a few examples (may save you the bother of reading it all)

Page 6

For example, they MAY, in agreement with their childminders, provide invoicing services’ and a bit further on ‘ Agencies MAY also be able to help childminders apply to provide free early education places and manage the funding on their behalf’


Still on page 6,

‘They MAY be able to help match parents with a childminder ….’ and further on ‘Where a childminder is unable to work, a childminder agency MAY be able to offer alternative cover’


Hang on, HANG ON …… I am sure that was to be one of the main selling points – cover for holidays, and illness, and other emergencies. One of the things that I personally thought – well that would be good and reassuring to parents. However, I could have told them that providing emergency and planned cover is not easy or cheap – you see as a ex CCF Childminding Networks co-ordinator – I KNOW that to provide this sort of cover you need childminders who are happy to provide this service and not fill all their places – but of course this means a loss of potential business, and therefore income. I mean would you like to sit around with no income just so every now and then you could provide back up cover? I know it would suit a few people – but not many. So the only viable way to do this is to pay that person to keep places open – and that costs money – lots of it. And of course SOMEONE has to pay. Now let me see would that be the agency owner out of company expenses – well maybe but guess where the money would come from YES – OF COURSE from the fees paid by childminders and parents using the agency., thus making it more expensive for everyone – well everyone except the Government or the agency owner.

So to be clear agencies MAY provide back up cover.

Bottom of page 6

‘Agencies MAY want to support prospective childminders in meeting all the mandatory pre registration training requirements’

SORRY? MAY want to? Again I thought that was going to be one of the key things about childminder agencies – that they would support those wanting to become childminders by providing everything they needed – I seem to remember the phrase ‘ONE STOP SHOP’ – everything in one place, no need to trawl the internet and training providers, and not to mention the much talked about cost saving by dealing direct and bulk buying of services.

So again to be clear agencies MAY provide the training for mandatory requirements.


I am sure by now you are thinking – BOY Penny, I am surprised you got to page 8 – page 6 alone is depressing enough!


I have to agree – although I now have some sympathy and empathy for Ofsted – it must have been really hard to come up with requirements for childminder agency registration and inspection within the criteria set out in the DfE step by step guide.

Still lets carry on – there is a slight chance that I missed the positive bits

Page 7

‘They MAY want to provide their childminders with a dedicated co ordinator with experience of childminding / early years …….’

All I can say is – for goodness sake – if they don’t it will be the uniformed leading the uniformed in the case of prospective childminders and the informed (the experienced childminders) leading the uniformed agency staff.


I am really sorry DfE – but where is the quality in all this? Just how do you imagine that standards and outcomes are going to rise?

Still page 7

‘Agencies MIGHT also help arrange insurance cover for their childminders – well if they don’t – who is going to provide cover for childminders with out an individual Ofsted number, without a grade or report that gives at least some reassurance that they are meeting the requirements and keeping children safe?

There is lots more that I could comment on – but I am not going to because the whole thing is a complete waste of time – and there is no quality assurance in place, no reassurance that the Government have at least listen to concerns, no last minute adjustments to make the best of a bad situation


However, I will make one last comment – taken from near the bottom of page 16


Childminding agencies MAY choose  whether or not to register childminders and other providers. Where an agency refuses to register a childminder, the decision CANNOT be appealed.


So there we are, if they think there is not enough business in the area (or any other reason) they don’t have to register you. The document says refusal is not indicative of a persons suitability – can we be sure of this? Can we be sure that it won’t be a case of ‘Mates first’ or ‘Face doesn’t fit’? I don’t know but I would have preferred a system that stated clearly why a person had been refused – not just to ensure equality of opportunity but for Safeguarding reasons and to ensure the unsuitable, did not just go round all the agencies till they found one that would take them on.


I apologise if I have upset anyone with my negative comments – but I can’t help feeling depressed about all of this.

We had a system of registration that worked – and still works

We had a system of support that on the whole worked – and yes it was not consistent in all areas – but it needed improved not scrapping

We had access to training from various sources – and most understood that LA training could not continue to be free and that we would have to start paying  (in fact some already were) – but again on the whole in worked and there just needed to be a bit more across area consistency in availability and cost.

And now we have childminder agencies – enough said

Please if you are considering becoming a childminder – look into becoming an Ofsted independent registered childminder

Please if you are considering using a childminder – look into using an independent Ofsted registered childminder

Of course the  agency route may suit you best – but please at least do your research and comparison because an agency childminder is not the same as a independent Ofsted registered childminder.



Posted September 2, 2014 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

3 responses to “The DfE Childminder Agency Step by Step Guide

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  1. I haven’t read the Document yet but ‘Oh Dear’ and ‘not a Surprise’ comes to mind. Mrs Truss had no idea or interest in how childminding works and her remit was to reduce the cost of childcare but she never, I believe, said who the cost was to be reduced for, clearly it was the Government and not the parents.

    I am not surprised at the vague detail they wouldn’t want to dictate to free enterprise how to run their business would they (rolls eyes). They also need to at least try and make it financially viable for people to run Agencies. However the ability to refuse to take on a Childminder, well fair enough there are some childminders I wouldn’t want to take on, but they were as you say supposed to be improving standards so maybe they should be supporting these kind of childminder to improve? But then that would cost money and require an expertise in Childminding Skills? To be able to refuse and give no reason well I suppose you could say that is what happens when you apply for any job, the employer often won’t even reply never mind give a reason why they didn’t offer the job. However if a Childminding Agency refuses a Childminder membership then they should as a minimum have to indicate if it is because they think this person is unsuitable to work with children and why because if the person is unsafe then surely the Agency would have a Duty of Care to notify all Agencies and Ofsted so the said person could not apply to them to work with children? I always feared the favourites etc. Also I have always thought that really the best Agencies, like Nanny Agencies, will only want to attract the best Childminders and most of them will be staying Independent.

    Following this Document I would have thought now that all our Membership Bodies now need to up the game and really publicise the potential dangers (no I should say Pitfalls!) to parents of using Childminding Agencies over going directly to an Independent Childminder. Independent Childminders need to really get together in areas so they can if at all possible cover sickness and holidays between themselves and help reassure the parents who may need it. I have to say by informing parents of my main holidays in plenty of time in the last 10 years I have never been asked if I could suggest alternative cover for my holiday. For the 2 days I have had off sick in the last 5 years I managed to find alternative care for the parents who needed it even at 6am!.

    Penny you are not being negative it is the powers that be who clearly don’t care, have realised they can’;t raise the standard of childcare with out cost and investment and so have now chosen to sweep their responsibilities under the carpet and we will see a rise in accidents and incidents as a result of poor standards of care and I fear the number of Childminders will reduce because parents will go to the very visible High Street Nurseries. We have a huge one opening in our own small town. (though it was due to open 2 years ago and is still a building site due to open this month but I don’t see it!) it is at the dead end of a very desirable residential road, big houses, no parking and very little turning space. How on earth they ever got Planning Permission is amazing and I wonder if they will get complaints once they are open regarding traffic.

    • Thank you for your comments Brita.
      My understanding is that the membership organisations are preparing information about the differences between agency CM and independent CM, but you are right – we need to be proactive ourselves in making parents aware

  2. Thank you for reading this document I don’t think I would have got past page 6. I just find it so depressing that the powers that be value children so little. Quality costs money and it must soon become clear to everyone that agencies are not going to produce quality never mind reducing costs.

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