Early years organisations urge peers to vote against childminder agencies

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Two leading early years organisations have written to members of the House of Lords ahead of next week's debate on childminding agencies.

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The letter raises the organisation's concerns with childminder agencies

In a joint letter, the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) and the Family and Childcare Trust list reasons why peers should vote against the clause in the Children and Families Bill concerned with agencies.

In the letter, they argue that the clause (74) comes with significant risks, is unlikely to be successful in drawing new childminders to the profession and will do little to address the priorities for parents of quality and affordability.

The Children and Families Bill 2013 will be read for a third time at the House of Lords next Wednesday (5 February).

Signed by chief executives Liz Bayram and Anand Shukla, the letter explains the problems with letting childminder agencies register and inspect childminder members directly. They include:

  • A ‘clear conflict of interest’ between childminder agencies marketing childcare services and objectively evaluating the quality of those services.
  • A reduction in consumer information as parents often choose a childminder on the basis of their Ofsted grade. The charities say that removing this assurance will undermine parents' confidence in childminders and put parents at risk of inadvertently choosing low quality childcare.
  • Childminders who join agencies will be forced to pass on increased costs to parents as childminder agencies will not subsidise Ofsted registration costs. The Government subsidises 90 per cent of registration costs for new childminders.

Oscar Plummer, policy and communications manager at PACEY, said, ‘PACEY continues to oppose the introduction of childminder agencies, for the reasons set out in the letter to the House of Lords. We hope that peers will listen to these legitimate concerns expressed by our members and the wider childcare sector, and vote against clause 74 of the Children and Families Bill.’

Ellen Broome, director of research, policy and communications at Family and Childcare Trust, said, 'The Government wants to allow childminders to register with a childminder agency rather than Ofsted and argues that this will reduce red tape. We are concerned that this has the potential to both confuse parents and undermine their confidence in the quality of different childminder settings.
 
'A survey by PACEY and Netmums found that 75 per cent of parents would be less likely to use a childminder registered with an agency rather than Ofsted. Evidence from other countries also shows that this model runs the risk of undermining quality and lowering the standards of care. Within PACEY's More Great Childcare Childminder Survey, the majority (77 per cent) of childminders said they are worried that the same will happen in the UK.
 
'When this is debated in Parliament next week, we hope that the Government will take on board the views of both parents and childminders, and remove this proposal from the legislation.'