Children and Families Bill

Memorandum submitted by Shirley Jenkins (CF 71)

My name is Shirley Jenkins. I have been a Registered Childminder since 1998. I would like to comment on the More Great Childcare Plan. I have reservations about some of the issues.

1.1 Ratios for Early Years children. I think it is an excellent idea that Childminders like me are to be allowed to care for up to four children at any time. This allows for a much greater degree of flexibility. I regularly care for four pre-schoolers because of siblings and ‘continuity of care’ allowances. With four, I am able to give them a high level of individual care and support and they tend to make rapid progress in all areas as a result. Many children in settings such as mine and my fellow Childminders can be up to a year ahead of their peers academically by the time they start school. Quite frankly, if I was limited to three I would go out of business, financially. We don’t make a huge amount of money as Childminders, and having the potential to earn a higher income makes the Plan very attractive. Childminders who don’t like the idea would not be forced to take four children but it would give flexibility to those of us who want to offer our service to parents. Having said that, I think that increasing the ratios proposed for nurseries would be detrimental to the care of those children. Four is a good number for one person to care for, whether they are one, two, three or four years old. I would seriously doubt that one person looking after more than four pre-schoolers would be able to give them sufficient support. If the children are to be properly ‘school ready’, they need more one-to-one attention.

1.2 I know some Childminders are worried about sustainability, but we do offer something different to nurseries, and many families want more of a family-based setting, especially if the Childminder has a good reputation for providing a good level of care and education. We charge local market rates, and with more children in our care, of course we have the flexibility to reduce our fees. It is simple market forces in action.

2 Childminders do NOT want agencies. We are self-employed and would choose to stay independent. There is no benefit to us from joining an agency. Many of us already belong to specific Childminding networks anyway.

3 Qualifications for Early Years workers Requiring Childcare professionals to have a minimum of Grade C in English and Maths will lead to a lot of highly skilled practitioners being forced out of the sector. I cannot see that there is any correlation between academic qualifications and ability to provide a good level of care and support for young children.

March 2013

Prepared 19th April 2013