A new campaign is calling for childminders in England to be granted funding for related children, as research shows tens of thousands are missing out on vital income because they can’t provide the 15 and 30 hours offers to family members.
Research by the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY), drawn from its annual Building Blocks survey, reveals that 38 per cent of the 2,009 childminders in England questioned have at least one child in their setting related to them.
For 40 per cent, it is likely that a related child will attend their setting in the future.
However, PACEY says these childminders could be at risk of losing related children to other settings once they become eligible for the 15 or 30 hours entitlements because childminders are not permitted to deliver funded places to family members, including nieces, nephews and grandchildren.
As well as greatly disrupting a child’s continuity of care, the rule also affects childminders’ income, warns PACEY. Upscaling the figures from its survey to apply to all registered childminders in England – 42,300 – it estimates that up to 17,000 childminders could be affected.
Based on research by Ceeda, which found that on average, local authority funding rates in England are £4.34 per hour per child, PACEY says childminders looking after related children could lose around £5,000 per year for each funded place.
Following the announcement last week that childminders in Wales will be able to provide funded places to related children from September (see box), PACEY is calling on the Government to give English childminders the same rights.
It has been raising the issue for a number of years at Westminster.
PACEY believes a change to the rules would also increase the number of funded places delivered by childminders. Currently, only 4 per cent of two-year-olds and 2 per cent of three-year-olds take up a funded place with a childminder.
It is urging all affected childminders and their families in England to write to their MP and the minister for children and families, Nadhim Zahawi, to share their personal experience of the ban.
Liz Bayram, chief executive of PACEY, said, ‘Childminders in England need to be on a level playing field with nursery and pre-school colleagues who can claim funding for related children if they attend the setting they work in.
‘Our latest research provides a stark reminder of how many childminders are affected by this unfair ban and are put off delivering funded places. On top of this, children are forced to change childcare provider so their family can access funding, even if they are settled and happy. It is simply wrong.
‘What makes matters worse is that the ban only applies to funded places. Other types of childcare support – like Tax-Free Childcare, childcare vouchers, working tax credits and Universal Credit – allow registered childminders to provide childcare for related children if the care is provided outside the child’s home. The Government simply needs to harmonise the criteria.
‘PACEY believes a change to the current rules would increase the number of funded places available to families and improve childminder sustainability, as well as choice and flexibility for families. It would also give a strong message to childminders that they are valued and trusted professionals, just like nursery and pre-school practitioners. This issue has dragged on for far too long; if Wales can do this, so can England.’
Diane Dawson, a childminder in East Riding of Yorkshire, provides care for her six grandchildren, who range in age from 18 months to six years old.
Two of her grandchildren are eligible for a funded place. One grandchild, who has a younger sister in remission from cancer, has had to leave the setting to go to a nursery to take up the funded hours, which she said initially presented a stressful situation.
Ms Dawson explained, ‘Mum was very concerned about moving her daughter from my care to the local nursery because she was worried that she would pick up normal illnesses such as chicken pox and carry them home, with very serious consequences for her sister, who has received chemotherapy treatment for cancer. Of course, I can’t guarantee being germ-free at all times, but the risks are lessened in a smaller setting with fewer children.’
Another of Ms Dawson’s grandchildren suffers from various allergies and has severe eczema and asthma.
She said, ‘His parents don’t want to move him to another setting when he turns three as they are worried he will not receive the special care his medical conditions require, but having the funding would mean they are financially better off.’
Ms Dawson added that if the Government changed the rule around funding for related children then her grandchildren could take up their funded hours with her, which would make a big difference to her family.
Kelly Duff from Littlehampton in West Sussex said she moved her daughter from her aunt’s care after she realised she would not be able to take up the 30 hours.
She said, ‘It wasn’t until my daughter became eligible for the 30 hours in January that I found out we would not be able to take up her funded place while in the care of her aunt – an aunt by marriage – an Ofsted-registered childminder.
‘I had to move my daughter to a nursery despite her having been with her childminder since she was 11 months old. She went on a waiting list, and when a vacancy did arise, I had to change my working hours as the nursery was not as flexible.’
She added, ‘It’s been very upsetting and proved hugely disruptive. It all seems senseless.’
Welsh childminders win funding for related children
On 19 June, the Welsh Government confirmed that, from September, a change in policy will be made to allow registered childminders to receive funding for the care of a related child who does not live with them.
The move is to coincide with the Welsh Government’s expansion of its 30 hours early education and childcare pilot.
Minister for children, older people and social care Huw Irranca-Davies said, ‘Childminders are vital to ensuring there is capacity in the childcare sector to deliver the offer and in providing the wrap-around care often needed to allow parents to access both their child’s early education entitlement and additional childcare.
‘The change to the policy to allow registered childminders to receive funding for the care of a child who is also a relative will be made from September 2018 to coincide with the expansion of our offer. The guidance will set out that childminders must be registered with CIW [Care Inspectorate Wales] to be able to access the offer and that the care cannot be provided in the child’s home.’