Childminders overwhelmingly against agency plans

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More than eight out of ten childminders believe that an agency model would lead to a rise in fees for parents, according to research.

A survey by the IPPR of 1,000 childminders found that 86 per cent of childminders thought the introduction of agencies would increase their business costs because of fees, meaning ‘costs to parents would have to go up.’

The Professional Association of Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) commissioned the research to assess childminders’ views in relation to the Government’s plans to reform childminding regulation and inspection, set out earlier this year in More Great Childcare.

The survey also found that the majority of childminders are against cutting regulations for childminders, with six in ten believing that more regulation would have a positive impact for the sector.

Just seven per cent support the idea of moving from individual inspections to collective assessments through agencies.

Three-quarters of childminders want minimum requirements in place to practise, such as having or working towards a relevant qualification.

PACEY is calling on the Government to stop plans to introduce childminder agencies until there is ‘clear evidence’ that they will not undermine the quality and sustainability of childminding.

Liz Bayram, joint chief executive of the Professional Association of Childcare and Early Years (PACEY), said, ‘PACEY remains very concerned about the introduction of childminder agencies, which we fear pose a serious risk to the sustainability of the childminding profession.

‘The IPPR research shows that childminders are not supportive of this measure with the vast majority of childminders questioned believing it would increase, not lower the cost to parents.

PACEY shares the view that it is essential to maintain individual inspections for all childminders and that only those rated by Ofsted as being ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ should deliver the free entitlement.’

She added that the Government had ‘ignored childminders in their plans to improve qualifications for childcare professionals, which shows there is no commitment to improving quality and standards of childminders. This is at odds with the IPPR research that shows childminders are crying out for increased measures and regulation to help drive quality.’

The research, which was commissioned before the plan to increase ratios was reversed, also found that if ratios had been relaxed, childminders would not have been able to pass on savings to parents.

Although three-quarters of those surveyed said that relaxing ratios would have increased their monthly earnings, nearly all (93 per cent) said they would not have changed the amount they charged to parents per child. Less than 2 per cent said they would decrease the cost per child (as the Government had hoped), while 5 per cent said they would increase costs.

Imogen Parker, researcher at IPPR, said, ‘Changes to ratio regulation have dominated the debate on childcare reform, but now Nick Clegg has blocked changes to ratios, the focus is on the other aspects of the Government’s reform proposals.

‘Childminders are deeply concerned about the potential impact of the reform agenda especially the proposal for new agencies alongside the removal of individual inspections. Childminders believe these would be detrimental to the quality of provision and safety of children, and would do little to attract new entrants to the profession.

‘Childcare costs in England are too high for parents. But childminders believe the current proposals do little to make childcare more affordable, indeed agency fees could push costs even higher. There is little evidence that reforms will lower prices or boost quality, both of which are key aims of the government’s reform agenda.’


Comments from childminders in the IPPR survey

‘These agencies are a very bad idea, they will promote weaker childminders because they will want to make a profit and the respect and reputation of good childminders will be damaged.’

‘When I registered, I was able to start without any formal qualifications. I was really shocked by that and would not want to see the same repeated. I want to see childminders respected as childcare professionals, not a second class group of workers that this Government seems to think we are.’

‘I will not sign up to an agency, I will not take on more children as this is an accident waiting to happen… If it came down to being deregulated or you can’t do the job, I wouldn’t childmind - I have worked too hard the last five years to become a glorified babysitter.’

‘People with weak Ofsted reports may be tempted to join an agency so that they can "claim" the agencies overall inspection rating. You would not get a true reflection on the individual childminder’s abilities and standards which [would be] detrimental to any parent and child who is placed with them.’

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