Memorandum submitted by the National Childminding Association
1.1 The National
Childminding Association (NCMA) is the only national charity and membership
organisation that represents home-based childcare in
1.2 NCMA welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to this inquiry and would be willing to respond to any requests for further information which may assist the Committee's work or give oral evidence as appropriate.
1.3 NCMA is continuing to gather information from its childminder members and regional staff about the expected impact of the introduction of the single funding formula.
1.4 NCMA urges the committee to consider the impact of the implementation of the single funding formula on the sustainability, choice and quality of childcare.
3.4 NCMA urges the Committee to impress upon local authorities to approach the application of the Early Years Single Funding Formula in a consistent and transparent way across all childcare providers.
2. The expected impact of new local funding formulae on providers of early years education and childcare services.
The impact on sustainability
2.1 It is clear that the funding in some areas is very low per hour through the free entitlement payments. The funding formula must allow settings to remain viable as businesses and provide genuine flexibility, as additional costs may be incurred for unsocial hours or weekend work.
2.2 If this is not the case it will not be financially viable for childminders to deliver the free entitlement which in turn may have an impact on the number working. It is important to ensure that there is the incentive for childminders to be accredited by ensuring they are not financially worse off under the formula.
The impact on choice
2.3 The Early Years Single Funding Formula is intended to support the extension of the free entitlement for 3- and 4-year-olds. However, under the current free entitlement offer families are not offered the full choice of childcare potentially available to them.
2.4 This is because only childminders who are members of accredited childminding networks are eligible to provide the entitlement.
2.5 Families do not have the choice of a childminder delivering the free entitlement in local authorities which have not established a network. NCMA proposes all local authorities establish a childminding network to offer a fair choice for all families looking at childcare options.
2.6 All families should have access to home-based childcare which enables a personalised, responsive approach that allows each child to develop a close and consistent relationship with their adult carer and to influence their play and learning opportunities.
2.7 Childminders offer added value to children and families by providing a supportive, consistent and flexible service. This may include respite care, family support, special educational needs provision and smaller adult child ratios than other settings due to registration requirements.
2.8 There will be some challenges with this proposal for every local authority to establish a network but these can be overcome with planning and partnership work.
The impact on quality
2.9 Ofsted's latest annual report shows that childminders who are part of quality assurance schemes (childminding networks) are much more likely to achieve an 'Outstanding' or 'Good' grading.
2.10 This supports NCMA evidence that quality improvement childminding networks, such as NCMA Children Come First networks, deliver real benefits for registered childminders and the children in their care.
2.11 This reinforces the importance of ensuring that a flexible quality improvement scheme is available in every local authority and supported by investment in local professional development opportunities for individual childminders to ensure the continuing improvement of the services they provide.
2.12 NCMA welcomes incentivising quality through the use of a quality supplement in local funding formulae; however it is vital that it is open equally to all types of providers.
2.13 A quality incentive and supplement provision judged to be outstanding and good would be an incentive for all to ensure their practice is high quality but it must be inclusive and offered to all, including all network childminders who meet the standards.
2.14 Different factors for a quality supplement should be considered, including qualifications, with clear communication to childminders if they can expect a higher level of funding for their free entitlement provision based on the qualifications they gain, and flexibility. Increased flexibility means childminders can often adapt quickly to the needs of families.
3. Difficulties which have been encountered in drawing up new funding formulae, and how they are being overcome.
Challenge in ensuring the importance of considering all costs
3.1 During the pilot phase local authorities differed in their approaches to funding childminders, with some offering a lower than average rate and others a higher rate based on different approaches to cost analysis.
3.2 Any funding formula must at least be as much as the local hourly rate for childcare or flexible provision places will be minimal. The fee childminders receive for providing early years education and childcare services must be reflective of the high quality care they provide in their setting.
3.3 The cost analysis should take into account the unique way childminders deliver the free entitlement - for example, the smaller adult to child ratios and any requirements for disabled children which will determine the size of the setting. One model NCMA became aware of, used by a local authority, to understand the impact of occupancy, staff ratio and employment of qualified personnel bore no relation to a childminder setting. The model was based around a 25 place setting with two three hour sessions with a staff ratio of 1:5.
3.3 Childminder costs are complicated as business and home finances may be interlinked and it is important that all costs are considered, such as attendance at training, time spent during non-childminding hours completing children's profiles and doing their books.
2.3 Childminders must have a presence on school forums where the Dedicated Schools Grant is allocated.
The importance of joined up policy making
3.5 The Department for Children, Schools and Families are currently consulting on the Draft Code Of Practice On Provision Of The Free Entitlement For 3 and 4 Year Olds. The consultation closes on 8 January 2010 and it is vital that decisions taken in the code are correctly considered in the single funding formula. NCMA is aware that some local authorities have put into their local guidance and funding formulas for early education funding a limit of two hour sessions. The draft Code of Practice suggests a minimum of a two and a half hour session. If two and a half hours stay in the code, local authorities will have to recalculate their local funding formulas.