The letter, which will be sent during the next few weeks to all childminders, outlines previously announced Government reforms that the education and childcare minister says will make it easier to work as a childminder and access Government funding, as well as attract new childminders.
Ms Truss goes on to list the reforms, which she says, will address a shortage of childminders and the difficulties some childminders face in accessing support to help them deliver high-quality care, including: making it easier for childminders to access Government funding, the introduction of childminder agencies, local authority support and how childminders can work with schools in providing childcare.
The education and childcare minister says that one advantage of joining an agency is that individuals will be provided with all they need to register and have the option of spreading the cost of setting-up. She claims that it costs at least £800 for people to establish themselves as childminders, calling it a 'complex and time consuming process.'
Another advantage of a childminder agency is that it will help childminders to fill their places more effectively, she says, before reiterating that joining an agency will be entirely voluntary.
Ms Truss states, ‘We absolutely understand that many childminders are content with the way they are working and we are simply offering a choice, a choice to stay independent and registered directly with Ofsted, or to join an agency.'
'On local authority networks and support, the education and childcare minister explains why a decision was taken to remove the requirement for childminders to be part of a network in order to access funding, because only ten per cent of childminders belong to a network.
She goes on to say that early intervention funding has increased for 2014-15 and local authorities are being given an additional £2bn to spend on three- and four-year-old places. However, she says that it is up to local authorities to decide how to best use this money.
Moving on to the future of local authority support, the education and childcare minister says that support will be available from a variety of sources which may include the local authority, a local childminder agency where this exists, as well as other professional bodies and training providers.
On working with schools, she suggests childminders approach their local schools about how they might work together to provide a more joined-up service for parents and enhance children's care and learning now that the Government has made it easier for schools to open longer.
The letter concludes, ‘This Government knows that childminders have an important role to play in both supporting parents and improving outcomes for children. That is why we are doing all we can to support you in this. I wish you every success in your work with children and families.’
Reaction to the letter among childminders on the One Voice Together for Quality Facebook page has so far been largely negative.
One childminder questions how she will make ends meet if a school is open from 8am-6pm and she is only dropping off and picking up children, therefore earning no more than an hour's fee.