Ofsted delay hits childminders

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Prospective childminders are facing long delays registering with Ofsted, putting many off joining the profession.

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Registration backlog is 'putting many off' joining the profession

  • Ofsted experiencing a ‘backlog’ of applications
  • Individuals are registering with childminder agencies instead as this is quicker

Prospective childminders are facing long delays registering with Ofsted, putting many off joining the profession.

Nursery World has spoken to childminders who have been told that Ofsted is experiencing a ‘backlog’ of applications.

According to the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY), many would-be childminders are waiting six months or more to register. Ofsted says it normally takes 12 weeks, but ‘timescales vary’. However, it moved to a new IT system last July, and had to ‘pause processing [registrations] for two weeks’.

PACEY says the delay in registration is putting many off joining the profession at a time when numbers of childminders are in decline. In some cases, individuals are registering with childminder agencies instead of Ofsted as this takes less time.

For one prospective childminder in Bedfordshire, the delay in registration has meant that she is relying on her partner’s income to make ends meet.

Another, Beth Sweeney from Solihull, told Nursery World she has joined an agency after waiting since August for Ofsted to approve her registration.

After being misinformed by Ofsted about what to put on the registration form, she complained to the inspectorate, which then fast-tracked her application. She says she has since received her Unique Reference Number but not a registration visit.

She sent her application at the end of August, expecting to begin childminding in January, allowing more than enough time for the expected 12-week Ofsted registration process.

‘I’ve honestly never been so stressed and disheartened by anything I’ve tried to complete,’ she said. ‘I’ve since decided to go with an agency, which has been amazing so far.’

PACEY chief executive Liz Bayram said, ‘We are hearing from more and more providers of unacceptable delays in Ofsted registering new provision, with a few reporting between six- and nine-month delays. This is unacceptable. It means providers having to wait too long before they can earn a living.’

A spokesperson for Ofsted said, ‘There are some childminder applications that have taken longer to process than we would have liked, but these are down to a combination of factors such as missing information and potential concerns uncovered through our checking processes.’

Ms Bayram argued that ‘Ofsted must do better. While we recognise they’ve introduced a new system and it’s had teething trouble, more needs to be done to resolve this as we are losing new providers, especially registered childminders.

‘The old system should have continued to operate alongside the new registration process until Ofsted was confident it worked effectively. If possible, they should revert to it now before we lose more.’

There are concerns that a delay in registrations may mean some will be unable to apply for the Childcare Business Grant Scheme, which is available for newly registered childminders until the end of March.

Case studies

Zoe Goddard from Hertfordshire said due to the delay she has had to turn away a family.

She told Nursery World, ‘I first applied to be a childminder with Ofsted in April. Two months later I moved to a new house so had to re-apply.

‘It took weeks for Ofsted to get back to me. They told me there was a mistake in the form and I would have to redo it.

‘Then in August Ofsted said they were updating their systems so it could take longer to register.

‘I call them every few weeks to see what is happening, but there never seems to be any urgency. It has started to dampen my excitement about becoming a childminder.

‘I had a family due to start with me in September so had to turn them away. I thought I would have been registered by then.’

A prospective childminder from South Yorkshire told Nursery Worldshe is looking into joining an agency after waiting months to become registered with Ofsted.

While the prospective childminder received her Unique Reference Number last month, after applying in September, she has yet to find out when the inspectorate will visit her home, which could take a further 12 weeks.

The delay to her registration has meant she has had to turn away more than three families.

She said, ‘Ofsted have told me the delay in registering is down to a backlog. I’ve made enquiries to childminder agencies and they say they can get me up and running in eight weeks.

‘The delay to registering is very demoralising. I feel like I am in limbo. My concern is that some of the training I have had to undertake to become a childminder only lasts a year.’

Childminder agencies

Rutland Early Years said it has seen a recent increase in childminder applications.

Childminding Matters, which currently has 12 childminders on its books and three more in the process of registering, has also received more enquiries from individuals wishing to become registered with the agency in the past six months.

The agency, which covers Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and surrounding areas, is run by directors Wendy Ockenden and Julia Hinns, who between them have over 30 years’ experience in training and monitoring the quality of provision.

The directors told Nursery World, ‘Within the last six months we have received a lot more enquiries from individuals, who really do not know how to start. We spend hours just talking them through initially what it means to become a registered childminder, whether through Ofsted or an agency. The free guide on our website supports them to understand the process fully. Often these childminders are not able to register with our agency due to distance, but we still offer our support.

‘We have also received several enquiries from childminders that are already registered with Ofsted, but that have become disillusioned from the lack of support and are considering leaving the profession.’

The directors said that unlike Ofsted, they are able to carry out registration visits of new childminders within two weeks of all checks (safeguarding, DBS, references) being completed.

They added, ‘Childminders are coming to us for the quality and depth of support on offer, from enquiry through to Level 3 training and beyond.’

OFCMA

All 11 Ofsted-registered childminder agencies have joined forces through the Organisation for Childminder Agencies (OFCMA), which will launch in early 2019. Its aims include:

  • to advance the education and training of childminders
  • to conduct research into aspects of care, recreation and education of children in order to support its registered childminders, providing training and resources and effective methods of regulation.

Childminding Matters said, ‘With the creation of OFCMA, all childminder agencies are now working together a lot more closely, so when a prospective childminder approaches an agency which is outside of their region, they are signposted to another that covers their area.

‘This minimises the risk of losing new childminders from the sector who are so desperately needed to offer more quality places for families.’

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