Children and Families Bill

Memorandum submitted by Clair Puschnik (CF 104)

Dear whom it may concern,

Re: Children and Families Bill

1. My name is Clair Puschnik and I work as a Registered Childminder in my home and governed by Ofsted. I registered in September 1999 and have built a reputable childcare business in the fact that I take my role as a Childminder extremely seriously. I achieved a 2:1 in completing a BA Hons in Education Studies in July 2011 and went on to achieve Early Years Professional Status Feb 2012. Therefore, I have worked to the highest standard and achieved a qualification to help me in my childminding career to ensure I provide the highest standard of childcare possible to every child in my home.

2. The areas of the Children and Families Bill that concerns me are: ratios for children in the early years category and childminder agencies.

3. Ratios for children in the early years category

3.1 I am deeply concerned about the Health and Safety of children if ratios were to be increased. From experience, childminding for 3 children under the age of 5 is an area that needs to be seriously thought through whenever you take on a new child. For instance, the early years practitioner would need to consider age of the child, special needs the child may have, family support and individual circumstances to name but a few. If a childminder looks after 3 children aged 1 year, 18 months and 2 years for around 8 hours a day, this would be extremely challenging when considering each child’s stage of development (see also 3.2, 3.3, and 3.6).

3.2 When considering providing the outdoor provision necessary for all children, I have deep concerns that children could be placed in danger. With children this young, you need ‘eyes in the back of your head’ so to speak and in order to allow each child to explore independently safely, the ratios need to be low, therefore should not be increased from the existing 1:3 ratio.

3.3 Children in the early years deserve the best start in life and this should be given by early years practitioners that support individual children’s care and development. This can be achieved when early years settings are providing high quality care and education. I feel that by increasing the ratios this could potentially put not only the welfare of children at risk but their development and education. Adults will struggle to perform their role to the utmost standard due to the lack of time they will have on their hands.

3.4 Another area that concerns me personally is that by increasing the ratios that will mean that more pre-schools, nurseries, etc can take on even more children. I worry that this could potentially place my childminding business in turmoil and that I will be forced to give up. This seems such a shame, since there are not many degree qualified childminders in my area. Although some may argue that a qualification is not always needed to provide quality care, I for one embarked on a degree to help me provide the best possible childminding environment for all of the children and families entering my home. However, if there is a decrease in families using childminders due to the fact that they can access care at other provisions with the increased ratios, I will be forced to leave my role as a Childminder.

3.5 An area that was debated about frequently when undertaking my degree studies was the importance of Key Person relationships with children and within that relationship the high quality care that can be provided when ratios are low. I certainly can vouch for this being a childminder and have practiced this in my home for years. Children are entitled to 1-1 care wherever possible, helping each individual build secure and trusting relationships with their Key Worker. In providing care/attention on a 1-1 basis at various times within the child’s individual session, this has a positive impact on their Personal, Social and Emotional Development (PSE) because children are helped to feel welcome, secure and safe. This in turn will positively impact all other areas of development which potentially will encourage the children to thrive and enjoy their lives. To increase the ratios will have a devastating effect on the children’s PSE development which will then impact all other areas of development because Key Workers will not have the time to provide for children’s unique needs on such a personal level.

3.6 I am also concerned about space for individual children in the fact that there will be less room per child if ratios are increased. Children need space indoors and outdoors and that space should be enough for children to feel ‘free’ not enclosed or made to feel ‘trapped’. If more children are placed so close together in settings, I strongly believe that this will have negative effects on the children. Please think about illnesses, relationships between adult-child, relationships between child-child and personal space between individuals.

3.7 The suggestion by Ms Truss for childminders to reduce costs for parents by increasing the ratios seems unjust and I believe that the bigger picture is being overlooked. I charge £4.00 per hour which is not only still below the minimum wage does not include all those extra hours per week in my own time but which is necessary for me in being an early years professional. To highlight some of these tasks: individual planning to consider the unique child, meetings with parents concerning the care and development of their children, training throughout the year including continuous professional development and reflection, writing assessment records for children, planning the home setting (clearing/setting up resources) just to name a few. All of these extra duties are to be undertaken in my own time. Therefore to reduce my hourly rate to coincide with increasing the ratios to make it more affordable for parents is of no benefit to childminders at all. I for one will not risk the care and development of a child being compromised in any way and will not reduce my hourly fee. This will make it more likely for me to leave the childminding profession altogether. I am worried that the highest qualified childminders will leave the childminding profession.

4. Ratios for children in the early years category

4.1 Previous petitions to Government from childminders stating that childminding agencies were not needed nor wanted should have highlighted the strong fact that they are completely unnecessary.

4.2 Although it seems that childminders will have a choice between remaining independent or signing to an agency, I have great concerns about this. I believe that it will create a 2-tier system which will confuse parents, possibly create animosity between individual childminders and make it more difficult for Ofsted and local authorities to manage. Most likely, this will cost more money to organise and sustain.

4.3 I have managed my childminding business for 14 years and have built a highly reputable name for myself, where children and families have had access to a very professional service but one which allows everyone to feel at home and be happy in their lives. There is no need to introduce an agency system to childminders that are already managing successful businesses. However, for those childminders seeking agency support, the 2-tier system this will create I feel will place the highly qualified, sustainable childminders in a situation where they may be forced to leave because families are being swayed by agencies to visit those childminders that opted to register with agencies.

4.4 Since agencies will determine the hourly rate for childminders, this means that those childminders who are not agency registered will be forced to lower their hourly rate to avoid there being a 2-tier-pricing system. This will not only confuse parents even further but will also place the non-agency registered childminders in unfortunate situations where they can not afford to keep their childminding business open.

4.5 All early years professionals should embark on continuous professional development (training updates) throughout their career. Creating this 2-tier-system could therefore affect the way training for childminders is managed, how training is accessed and the individual cost. For me and any other childminder refusing to enrol under an agency may be forced to pay extra for training, which may force a childminder to miss out on training opportunities, which will impact their sustainability anyway or they may be forced to join an agency to access the cheaper training. This is not fair on those that have chosen to remain independent and wish to progress in their early years career but are prevented from doing so.

Please consider my comments for the consultation on the Children and Families Bill, as I believe in doing so will help us all promote positive outcomes for our most precious beings in society (the early years) and in turn, this will help us all achieve economic well-being.

April 2013

Prepared 24th April 2013