Children and Families Bill

Memorandum submitted by National Childminding Association (CF 11)

1. Childminder agencies

1.1 As a professional membership association for childminders and nannies, NCMA represents over just over 35,000 registered childminders. Ofsted current states there are 43, 635 active childminders on its register. NCMA has sought both its members and other childminders’ views on the Bill’s proposal to establish childminder agencies. We have done so since the concept was first proposed over a year ago. Most recently as part of seeking views on government proposals set out in its More Great Childcare report. Every time the agency proposal has been rejected by the vast majority of childminders for the following reasons, among others. Agencies will -

· confuse parents who rely on Ofsted’s inspection and grading of individual childminders to help choose quality childcare for their child

· mean childminders are no longer regulated and inspected in the same way as other forms of childcare, risking the loss of parental confidence that has been gained through a level playing field that requires all providers to be inspected against the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework. This will make it harder to ensure the safety and well-being of children.

· mean Ofsted’s assessment of agency quality will rely too heavily on an agency’s own evaluation of the childminders on their books, creating a potential conflict of interest

· lead, unintentionally, to local authorities reducing the support and information they currently provide to individual childminders under their retained statutory duties, as local agencies are established.

1.2 In summary, childminders are concerned agencies will damage parental confidence in childminding and so its future sustainability. That quality may be reduced by the lack of an individual requirement to meet EYFS standards.

1.3 NCMA is concerned that this legislation is being introduced before the agency model has been piloted by government and demonstrated to deliver the hoped for reductions in cost for parents, reductions in paperwork and other barriers to childminders’ entering the profession and, most important of all, improvements in the quality of care provided to children.

1.4 Significant questions remain unanswered. For example, will government still require agency childminders to deliver the full EYFS and if so how will Ofsted assess the quality of practice effectively if only visiting a random sample of childminders? Will childminders be employed by the agency i.e. no longer childminders or retain their self-employed status, with all the implications that carries for public liability etc? What authority will an agency have to undertake the safeguarding process that ensures not only the childminder but the other adults living in the childminders’ home are suitable to be with children? What processes will Ofsted put in place to ensure quality standards are maintained regardless of whether the agency is profit making or not? How will parents and childminders using an agency be supported to first agree a childcare arrangement and, if necessary, subsequently resolve any disputes around quality of care (currently the responsibility of Ofsted)?

1.5 NCMA believes it would be better not to legislate for childminder agencies until they have been piloted and proven to deliver the improvements Government requires. Furthermore that they should first be tested once other aspects of government’s childcare policy have been finalised. Namely, proposed changes to ratios and qualification requirements.

1.6 If the proposal remains in the Bill, we support the efforts of the National Children’s Bureau to seek amendments to require childminders registered with an agency to still be individually inspected by Ofsted and to set out in legislation or underpinning guidance the training, qualification and other development requirements an agency should provide for childminders.

2. Local authority duty to assess childcare sufficiency

2.1 NCMA is concerned that by repealing the requirement to undertake this assessment every three years there will be less transparency as to whether individual authorities are meeting their duty.

2.2 Furthermore that the assessment process supports local authority’s to make decisions on where to invest in childcare recruitment activity to increase the availability of childcare or quality improvement activity to raise the standards of care in particular areas

March 2013

Prepared 8th March 2013