Children and Families Bill

Memorandum submitted by Elizabeth Manning (CF 69)

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

1. My name is Elizabeth Manning I have been a registered Childminder for 20 years. I am passionate about my role, and enjoy the freedom of being self-employed. I have read the More Great Childcare Document. 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.

Agencies for childminders

3.1 Childminders do not seem to have been consulted in depth concerning this proposal. Last year childminders tried to present their doubts about the wisdom of agencies, trying also to make it clear to Ms Truss and the Department of Education that they did not want agencies. There were several well supported petitions and representations.

3.2 I believe that agencies will do exactly the opposite of what they are supposed to be doing, i.e., I believe that agencies will put people off becoming childminders as well as forcing many already-established childminders to leave their profession.

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 Children cannot be passed around childminders when occasion demands; if a childminder is ill, you can’t just send a baby or toddler to someone they don’t know, they have to be left with a known person they love and trust.

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 Local authority networks are currently at threat because of a lack of     funding, so that will impact on training opportunities for childminders.

3.7 Childminding agencies will encourage a 2-tier childminding system, with confusion and uncertainty for both childminders and parents. Parents recognise the authority and national significance of Ofsted, and if this is withdrawn, there will be a backwards step with a downturn in standards and professionalism.

3.8 Childminders already struggle to compete with nurseries; if they are downgraded and removed from the umbrella of Ofsted, then in the eyes of parents they will be considered as second rate childcarers.

3.9 Ofsted inspections, together with the introduction of the EYFS, have improved the standards of childminders and the professional way in which they run their businesses. Taking childminders away from Ofsted will not only demoralise existing childminders, but will also take away the incentive for personal and professional improvement. Why should a childminder aim to be outstanding, if the agency grading is actually lower?

3.10 It is highly patronising to suggest that people can’t run their own business, I have managed very well for 20 years .People become childminders because they care for children want to be self-employed and independent workers.

I am very concerned about my own business, which currently provides high quality childcare for young children. I request that the proposal for Childminder agencies be removed from the Bill.

March 2013

Prepared 19th April 2013