Children and Families Bill

Memorandum submitted by Stacey Green (CF 37)

Dear Sir,

I would like to add my comments to the consultation on the Children and Families Bill.

1. I am an Ofsted registered Childminder with 2 years of experience caring for young children. I have a NVQ Level 3 in Children and Young People’s Workforce. I am passionate about my role, and enjoy the freedom of being self-employed. I have read the More Great Childcare Document and have also watched with interest the readings of the Children and Family Bill in parliament, as well as the committee meetings. I believe that the aim of the new legislation is to cut childcare costs to parents and bring more Childminders to the sector, however I feel that what is being proposed will in actual fact decrease the numbers of Childminders, bring uncertainty for parents over the type of care that Childminders provide and will ultimately increase costs for parents.

2. The area of the Children and Families Bill about which I have most concerns is Childminder agencies.

3. Childminder Agencies

3.1 Childminder agencies will not fix the problem of high childcare costs for parents. The Department of Education has made it clear there will be no funding for agencies. However they want agencies to deliver a service that is costly. This means that either parents will have to pay for the privilege of using one, which increases costs, or Childminders will be charged a fee, which will be reflected in the charges they pass onto parents, which increases costs.

3.2 Childminder agencies will cause confusion for parents when choosing childcare, as they will have to decide whether to go with an individually inspected Childminder or an Agency Childminder. Right now there are 61% of Childminders with Ofsted grades of Good or Outstanding. I am one of these. I got my grade without being part of a network, and I only have peer support from one other local Childminder. My LA up until now has not been to my setting since I registered 2 years ago, and has offered me no one to one support, other than putting on LA courses which they have to run. The only difference between me and an agency Childminder would be that they would supposedly have more support. As a parent how would I know which is the better option. As a parent why would I want to choose a Childminder who has never been inspected by Ofsted, over one who has?

3.3 The government does not want to prescribe how an agency runs, and that it to be left up to the individual agency/company to decide. How will this create a system which drives up Children’s Outcomes and reduces costs for parents? The only way for agencies to be effective is that they have to have strict guidelines on the exact amount of support they must offer, strict guidelines on the amount and quality of training the put on, precise guidelines on how they do Ofsted’s role, strict guidelines on how they get all of their Childminders to be good/outstanding in the eyes of Ofsted, set standards for which parents to look at which shows how they monitor and make sure that each of their Childminders meets a certain standard, the list goes on. If the government does not prescribe how an agency runs they are in grave danger of creating a complicated system with different agencies offering different levels of support, standards and most importantly different levels of outcomes for children.

3.4 Another idea behind Childminder Agencies is to bring more Childminders to the market. Why? Have you done research that shows that there is a need for more? There is plenty of areas throughout the country were there is an abundance of childcare provision and Childminders are having to shut down as they cannot be sustainable. The same can be true for many Nurseries, they are not full to capacity. Add this to the planned increases in ratios and the childcare market could become saturated. I believe that before an Agency opens it should be proven that in that local area there is a very high demand for Childminders. Is the idea of more Childminders coming to the market will be so that it forces Childminders to have to decrease their costs in order to stay open as a business? If so I believe that the opposite effect will happen. Childminders already as a average earn £11K per annum, there is no room for many of us to decrease our costs. If this becomes the case experiences Childminders will leave the market in their 1000’s.

3.5 Childminder Agencies are supposed to help with the paperwork side of the business, which apparently so many of us find burdensome. However has anyone really thought on how this will work. My main paperwork is writing up observation and making individual plans for children. This can only be done by the person working closely with the children, so this paperwork would not be taken away. Other paperwork is sharing with other settings, sharing information with parents, and my self evaluation. Again all of this can only be done by the person working with the child. Paperwork that can be done by a agency is Policies and Procedures, which are done once and updated very infrequently, contract’s, which are done once, Invoices, which are done monthly however most of the time the figure is the same month in month out. As you can see I am not really sure how a agency will lessen paperwork for me.

3.6 A Childminder in a agency might never been seen by Ofsted, so how can Ofsted have any assurance that all the Childminders within a agency’s book is following the EYFS and all statutory guidance and is improving outcomes for children? Will they just take the agency’s word for it? There is no way that an Ofsted inspection of the agency itself has any bearing or reflection of the Childminders on its books.

3.7 Childminder Agencies are supposed to drive up quality in the Childminding sector. However if it is voluntary for a Childminder to join an agency then I cannot see how the 2 correlate. For example lets say I am a satisfactory Childminder who doesn’t wish to be graded higher and is happy with the way I run my business, than I would not join a agency. How is the quality of my setting going to be improved?

3.8 Sue Gregory from Ofsted is concerned with the amount of children not ready for school, and this was given as part of the reason for needing to drive up improvement in the childcare sector, and a good reason for Childminder Agencies so that Childminders are supported to make improvements and improve outcomes for children. This will hopefully impact the 250,000 children who are in childminding settings. How then does she propose to help the 1.2 million children who are in non-domestic settings such as nurseries and pre-schools? They do not have to join agency’s.

I hope you take my comments into consideration and help me protect outcomes for the next generation of our children and my livelihood.

March 2013

Prepared 20th March 2013