Elaine Pitteway, executive director of the NCA, told Nursery World that the idea behind the partnership is to ensure food safety inspections of Northamptonshire childminder settings, carried out by the local authority, are tailored to childminders and that inspectors give consistent advice.
According to Ms Pitteway, childminders often receive conflicting advice from food safety inspectors, including whether or not they need a separate sink for handwashing.
The NCA and SNC's health protection team have formed a partnership under the Government's Better Regulation Delivery Office primary authority scheme, which allows businesses to be involved in their own environmental health regulation and to form a statutory partnership with one local authority.
As part of the partnership, which is still in the planning stages, the local authority partner - SNC's health protection team - will provide advice for councils to take into account when carrying out food safety inspections or addressing non-compliance.
This means that local authority food safety inspectors will have to check before carrying out an inspection if childminders are part of the primary authority partnership. If they are, inspectors are required to speak to the partnership before they serve an improvement notice to a childminder or prosecute them for failing to meet certain standards. The SNC's health protection team will then advise on the case and may be able to block the action if a childminder has followed its advice.
Stuart Wheeldon, leader of South Northamptonshire Council's health protection team, said, 'Our role within the partnership is to act as a sounding board for the Northamptonshire Childminding Association, providing advice that it can pass on to its members.'
When registering their business, childminders have to provide Ofsted with details of how they plan to provide food as part of their service. These details, held by the inspectorate, are available to view by local authorities.
It is a legal requirement for childminders who provide food to have their premises registered with the environmental health service of their local authority.
Once registered, a food safety inspection may be carried out by the local authority to look at food hygiene and safety procedures in place within a setting.
Under the partnership, SNC's health protection team will also provide specific advice to the NCA for its childminders on food hygiene and what is required of them by the local authority. This could include 'assured advice', perhaps a procedure, that childminders should follow.
Ahead of the official launch of the partnership, the NCA has developed an online food hygiene-training course for childminders, validated by SNC's health protection team.
The course, which can be found on the association's new 'sister' website, is currently only available to Northamptonshire childminders. However, there are plans to offer it to childminders nationwide.
The NCA's new site also includes general advice and resources for all UK childminders covering the Early Years Foundation Stage, Ofsted inspections, good practice and legal requirements.