Ratios! But what about childminder agencies?

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As you will already know, recent media attention has been focused on the Department of Education’s report, ‘More Great Childcare: Raising Quality & Giving Parents More Choice’.

The main topic of discussion has been the changes to ratios, which has not proved favorable among childcare professionals. But what about about childminder agencies?!

According to the Department of Education, childminder agencies are going to be ‘one-stop-shops’, that will help childminders with training, business support, advice and finding suitable parents.

Advantages for childminders include:

1. Help with matching childminders and parents together

2. Removing some of the burdens of registration for childminders

3. A support network and a more secure way of working

4. Help with handling day to day issues and emergencies

Advantages for parents include:

1. Finding it easier to secure a suitable place for their child

2. Support on a range of issues and help if any problems emerge with their childminder

3. Reassurance of knowing that the agency is registered with and inspected by Ofsted

4. Knowing that their childminder is suitably qualified

5. Help handling day to day issues and emergencies

The NCMA, are unsupportive of the agency model, because so many of it’s members have raised significant concerns about the impact it would have on parental confidence in childminding, their status as professionals and so their business sustainability!

The NMMA, commented:

‘Agencies also do not recognise the reasons why most childminders stay in the profession for so long. They enjoy the freedom and benefits that being self-employed bring. Childminders can decide what services they offer, the hours they work and which families they provide childcare to. So, whilst for some there may be an attraction to having the agency undertake certain paperwork, provide training and support, the critical issue will be what is expected of the childminder in return? How much autonomy will they be required to give up? How much will they be charged for this service? Especially when most of it they can do for themselves’.

‘So, In light of our members’ strong opposition to the concept of an agency approach to their regulation and inspection and the concerns we have received from parents, NCMA remains unsupportive of the government’s plan for agency models and will not be involved in their development, if they are legislated’.

In response to the concerns that agencies could drive up costs for staff and jeopardise professional autonomy, Simona McKenzie has established ‘The Independent Childminder’s Focus Group‘!

Simona McKenzie said:

‘The aim of the focus group is to attract as many childminders as possible so that we are absolutely crystal clear as to the meaning of remaining independent, costs related to registration and individual inspections. We will also seek clarification on the implications of registering with an agency. Numerous concerns have been raised about the quality and potentially a two-tier service’.

According to Yvette Oliver-Mighten from @HomeChildcare, ‘The Government’s recommendation to develop Childminder Agencies, will allow childminders to deliver better care’.

We are really interested in your views, on the introduction of childminder agencies! Are you for or against them? Share your comments here with us and participate in our Childminder Agencies Poll.

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8 thoughts on “Ratios! But what about childminder agencies?

  • March 19, 2013 at 2:03 pm
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    I am self employed for the simple reason- I want to be in control of my own business. Therefore I am against a childminding agency running my business I work so hard to maintain to an Outstanding grade on my own merit- not through an agency where I will just be a number.

    Reply
  • February 26, 2013 at 7:43 am
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    As a registered childminder for the last seven years, I am always full and have a waiting list. I have been graded Outstanding in all areas twice. I run a highly proficient, loving and caring childminding service. I have zero interest in joining an agency as they can offer me nothing.

    I don’t want a blanket grading either. This is most unfair as there will be those who deserve a higher grading who will be pulled down to a lesser grading, and those that achieve a higher shared grading who actually do not deserve it. This is not accurate and is not a true reflection of the childcare service being provided.

    If it means that only agency childminders will be able to provide govt subsidised funding and child care vouchers etc. then this will definitely create a two tier system… Where the less well off will use agency childminders and the well off will use independent childminders. Many childminders will close if they’re unable to offer funding, as their demographic demands it.

    We are SELF EMPLOYED. We pay our taxes, we hire staff, we provide a flexible and much needed service to our future leaders. What other industry has been so attacked as us right now? Imagine the huge outcry were all the self employed accountants in England told they’d have to join an agency to ‘deal with their paperwork and bring them clients’… One of the joys of being self employed is being able to choose our clients! I am not a drop in centre, I am a childminder. I work from my home so am careful re who I choose enters it… I choose my own families. They choose me for the specific service I provide.

    Different childminders offer different things – some do school runs, some do not. Some are open only during term time, some are open all year round. Some have a variety of age groups, some focus on a particular age group. Some cook fresh and nutritious meals from scratch, some prefer the mindees provide their own food. There’s nothing standard or ‘agency’ about us. No middle man is needed. How terribly confusing an agency will make things.

    The current system works. I’d gladly pay OFSTED more for my inspection. I work hard for my grading. I’m qualified in every way to run my childminding business as is seen in the success that it is. Nothing needs changing.

    My LA and Early Years Childminding team (Wandsworth) are superb!!!! Offering incredible training and support. Dedicated and professional. Why take this away?

    Why change something that doesn’t need fixing? Please leave us alone so we can focus on our businesses and the precious ones in our care, without this dark cloud looming overhead, threatening to take our livelihoods and businesses we are so passionate about, away from us. We live in a democracy do we not? Bullying and undermining and creating fear is not democratic or fair or even very nice. And sadly, that is what is happening.

    Lets put the children first please.

    Reply
  • February 21, 2013 at 7:49 pm
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    Like most of you I have been happily running my own childminding setting for years and hope to continue to do so for many years to come, I do not need any help running my business and am confident with my abilities. However, I would like to play devils advocate here and put some other views across.

    Position yourself as a person considering becoming a childminder and the things that may put you off embarking on the journey. Becoming self-employed, dealing with HMRC, marketing your new business and attracting your first families, arranging contracts and working out what to charge, Ofsted coming to inspect your home, family and capabilities in a role you are new too. Whist we were all able to achieve these hurdles they could and do put off a lot of people who would make great childminders from entering the profession. The implementation of agencies could encourage these people to take the plunge, help and mentor them offering a cushion into a new profession.

    Another view we should consider is that of a parent, I have had phone calls from parents desperate for a childminder to care for their child; they have trawled through local authority lists only to find those who say they have vacancies don’t, or can’t collect from their child’s school. Searching for a childminder with space for a specific age group or specific days is difficult to say the least and wildly frustrating because in my area the website and information is poorly put together. The requirements for each family are unique that perhaps an agency managing vacancies in a holistic way for both parents and childminders could save us all a lot of time and introduce a matching service.

    Clearly there are costs involved and lots of areas that need consultation and consideration and I am by no means endorsing the proposals, however there are always other views to consider than that of our own personal ones.

    Reply
  • February 20, 2013 at 9:36 am
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    I am a childminder. I am against agencies. Because they will want a fee the parents childcare fees would increase not go down. Using an agency will stop parents being able to choose which childminder they would like to look after their child as an agency will allocate a childminder so no parental choice. The training and support that I revive n birmingham is very good.
    I prefer to be inspected in my own right and we have worked long and hard to be respected and seen as equals to nurseries and being professional it would be a massive step backwards to go to agencies.
    I have no problems with running my own business and have been doing quite well and do not want intervention of an agency.
    If a parent had a financial problem we talk and work things out we will lose th personal relationship with parents if agencies take ll this over.

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  • February 19, 2013 at 10:17 pm
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    I would like to remind Yvette Oliver-Mighten that 71% of c/ms are Good and Outstanding. Of course there is a need to bring standards up for those who need to raise the quality of care but while, she says exactly the same as E Truss, that agncies will allow c/ms to deliver better care, she gives no evidence of how this will happen
    I would like to ask Ms Oliver-Mighten what her experience is of delivering high quality childcare and whether, after 20 years of practice and skills, I would need her to make me even better…or indeed the thousands of c/ms who feel exactly the way I do?

    Truss was brought in to the DfE to reduce red tape and tackle the cost of childcare. She has been given many suggestions and I welcome a couple of them so far
    However I find it difficult that someone in her position can continue saying the DfE has lost track of where £5bn or is it £7bn is going??? This is totally unacceptable and incompetent

    The Childcare Commission asked for suggestions to reduce some burdens on providers but never once mentioned higher ratios or agencies…we were not consulted on these issues and the Under Secretary failed to debate them in the House of Commons before announcing her proposals

    In addition precious funds have been spent on the commission itself, research and consultation with experts…all have been ingnored in the same way the DfE is ignoring providers who are standing firm on higher ratios, we will not implement them.
    Ignoring the concerns from parents can prove a huge mistake as the very women E Truss is encouraging to return to work with the false promise of ‘hopefully’ cheaper childcare in the future, will actually stay at home and keep children safe rather that go out to work and worry about what ‘could’ happen and knowing that, with the best will in the world, providers will struggle to give children the care they deserve where ratios are increased!

    It is also very disrespectful of the DfE to exclude c/ms who wish to remain independent from participating in discussions that would clarify exactly what that entails, that no barriers are put in our way to continue managing our businesses while clarifying exactly what those c/ms registering with an agency would gain or lose in terms of employment status and income. The DfE has chosen to engage with those who wish to develop the agency model and no doubt they will have a say on the terms and conditions under which ‘independent’ c/ms are left to survive and sustain our businesses.

    It is sad that despite clear evidence pointing to why the cost of childcare is rising the DfE has chosen a path that leaves everyone in doubt these proposals will work and, above all, where is the child in all this??
    This govt inherited a framework where ‘Every Child Matters’ but we claerly do not see this in their agenda.

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  • February 19, 2013 at 10:15 pm
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    I am totally against childminder agencies. I have been a childminder for six years and have worked hard to build my business just the way I like it. I have no trouble filling my vacancies or running a business, so I don’t need an agency taking a cut of my wages! I also don’t want agencies setting up in direct competition with me offering ‘cheap’ childcare because cheaper will mean substandard and will ruin parental confidence in childminders.

    Reply
  • February 19, 2013 at 9:21 pm
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    I certainly will not be joining an agency. I will remain proudly and fiercely independent. I have managed for many years now – to match my own clients, collect my own fees, deal with paperwork and WOW – get my head round EYFS.. in other words I have run a very successful practice and business… like many thousands of other childminders.

    I FAIL to see how this is going to drive down costs of clients.
    I FAIL to see how this is going to be a level playing field – are other settings such as pre-schools and nurseries going to have these agencies thrust upon them

    I resent the propaganda that is already coming through loud and clear that agencies will = quality, that the inference is that minders outside the agency won’t be.

    I really am concerned about the future of childminders and the children of this countries future.

    Ms Truss et al have not a clue and they are on the verge of destroying Early Years.

    PLEASE do have a look at http://www.togetherforquality.com a ‘one stop shop’ for all things relevant to the ‘changes’ – petition(s), surveys, research, local and national news and information, statements from early years organisations and backers

    We MUST stick together, we MUST get anyone who cares about children involved from practitioners and settings through to grandparents and neighbours.

    Reply
  • February 19, 2013 at 8:23 pm
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    TOTALLY AND UTTERLY AGAINST JOINING AN AGENCY

    If you need an agency to do all the day to day running of your business, then a profession that requires you to work alone and on your own initiatve, is NOT for you!!!

    I’ve worked hard to build my business and the majority of my ‘clients’ come word of mouth recommendations and will not have an agency dictate what I charge for my services, we all need to ‘vet’ the parents of the children we are to care for, we might not gel with them, or other way round. And I certainly won’t be paying for a service I DO NOT need. The training and support we currently receive in Cornwall is fantastic.

    Reply

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