Childminders' professionalism at risk with introduction of agencies

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The early years sector has urged caution over plans to introduce childminding agencies, as set out in the Children and Families Bill.


Early years and childcare organisations warn it could lead to a two-tier system, confuse parents and put childminders' professionalism at risk.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, said, 'More research should be done before the Coalition Government adopts the same agency model used widely in the Netherlands, as many of these agencies provide very little in the way of childminding support or training. We question why the Government would create another layer of bureaucracy that may see parents and childminders pay more while also duplicating the work of several organisations already in existence.'

Catherine Farrell, joint chief executive of the National Childminding Association (NCMA) said, 'Our members have overwhelmingly rejected the proposal to establish childminder agencies.We've consistently raised concerns with the minister about the planned introduction of the agency model and we do not plan to actively help the department with the development of the model.

'Even existing as an option this could damage the future sustainability of childminding, undermine parental confidence and cause confusion.'

Liz Bayram, joint chief executive of the NCMA, said, 'We believe it may not lead to the Government's desired quality improvements and could damage the hard-earned professionalism that childminders have achieved in recent years. Parents rely on Ofsted inspection of individual childminders to reassure them their child will be safe and receive a quality experience in that individual's care.

'The current system places childminding on an equal footing with nursery and pre-school childcare. Introducing this approach risks parental confidence in childminding and so its sustainability.'

The National Association of Family Information Services (NAFIS) has offered to work with its members and with the DfE to ensure agencies will not mean extra costs for families, or compromise the safe and comprehensive information about childcare.

Gavin Barber, chair of the NAFIS Steering Group, said, 'Childcare is a very personal choice and it is vital that parents have access to free and independent information.'

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