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New childminding agencies - what do you think?

(58 Posts)
KatieMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 05-Mar-14 14:30:31

The government have announced changes to the way childminders can work. The Children and Families Bill (2013) will allow the creation of a new system called childminder agencies. Some might be community based agencies, others may be nationally run private-sector organisations.

The government hope agencies will become "‘one-stop-shop’ organisations which will help childminders with training, business support, advice and finding suitable parents...attracting new high-quality providers and create[ing] more choice for parents."

You can find more information here, but essentially:

Agencies will offer advice and help with finding a childminder and will handle administrative arrangements, but this may include parents paying fees to the agencies.

Agencies will ensure a childminder is suitably qualified and receiving support, development and training and can help to handle day to day issues and emergencies, including ensuring that cover is provided if a childminder is unwell or on holiday.

Childminders don’t have to join agencies and can choose to stay independent. If they stay independent, Ofsted will still inspect them individually, but if they join an agency, Ofsted will asses the agency ensuring the agency is happy with the quality of provision and has carried out thorough checks on its childminders, including regular home visits.

Ofsted are now seeking parents' views on how they should conduct inspections of agencies. If you'd like to take part you can read more here and take the online survey here

It would also be really helpful to hear your views; do you like the sound of childminder agencies, would they help you find childcare, are you reassured by the idea of Ofsted inspecting the agencies? Do let us know your thoughts on the thread below.

HSMMaCM Wed 05-Mar-14 15:02:30

I'm a childminder. I run a successful business and see no need to pay someone else to tell me how to do it. I also think it will make Childcare more expensive for parents.

minderjinx Wed 05-Mar-14 21:23:39

One strength of the independent childcare sector is that parents can choose a childminder whose personality, environment, methods of working and terms and conditions suit what the family needs and wants for their children. There is no real alternative to going out there and meeting potential childcare providers, and as a childminder, I would also want to choose my own customers. Matching is not an exact science, or something you can do at a distance on paper or at a screen - I have been known to make adjustments to my usual terms or arrangements to accommodate the needs of a family whose requirements were a close but not perfect match to what I then had to offer.

I really don't see how an agency adds any value to this very important process. but they might well add cost, as well as potentially limiting choice. They are going to struggle to understand and correctly represent the variety of services offered, and there is a very real chance that they will try to make their own lives easier by seeking to standardize the offering, quite possibly disadvantaging families who want something a little bit out of the ordinary.

The overwhelming strength of feeling amongst childminders I have encountered is that the political agenda to promote agencies is mainly about the government wanting to distance itself from the continuing effort and expense of regulation and inspection of providers, and that the arguments that the new scenario will somehow offer parents more choice or lower costs just do not hold up. If another layer of bureaucracy in the form of an agency is added in, of course it will have to be paid for.

Many independent childminders wish to stay independent, but there is concern that there will be pressures to fall in line - perhaps by raising the cost of inspection or by making the inspection regime even harsher on non-agency childminders. If the government ploughs on regardless in the face of opposition, I would expect many excellent childcarers will leave the profession, and parental choice will be irrevocably reduced.

Retropear Thu 06-Mar-14 13:26:44

I'm an ex childminder.

I fear it will run down quality.

I was inundated with requests and round here there seemed to be a shortage.Everybody wants the Outstanding childminders which I was,I fear if agencies don't have enough cm on their books they'll award higher grades than are warranted in order to attract parents fees.I think they could also pressurise families and cm to take each other on when perhaps not the best suited.Teaching supply agencies can be a bit like that just to get their fee.

How can childminders be the same standard if two different bodies are responsible/inspecting?

Ofsted is very stringent for a reason and inspectors are well qualified,the report is thorough.I think the weaker cm will be attracted to the agencies,maybe CMs will be pressurised to reduce fees which may reduce quality (less trips out,cheaper food etc)and you will get a two tier system.

I also think parents will get confused.

oneintheeye Thu 06-Mar-14 14:10:51

I do not need an agency - I have been running a successful business for over a decade.
These are ill thought out plans and considering the implementation is less than 6 months away now there is an appalling lack of information for those who want agencies (although I am yet to meet with or talk to anyone who is in favour of them) and those who want to remain independent.

I worry about the future because I honestly believe the government will declare these a success (whether they are or not) and make them compulsory or make it very difficult to remain independent.

I also believe that the government is currently drip feeding the media puppies with all these recent bombardment of 'high cost childcare' stories. (perhaps I am just a bit jaded and cynical)

Ms Truss and her 'ideas' are ridiculous and the money should have been ploughed back into the many good LA networks/schemes and EY teams and helped to develop them in areas where there weren't any or any good ones.

There is a great campaign group over on facebook (not sure if I am allowed to put the link?) its called One Voice Together for Quality

Figster Thu 06-Mar-14 14:14:51

Interesting to see it is not compulsory as my cm had suggested it was or at least I have interpreted it as such. Was very angry at the idea I would have to pay more for an intermediary to manage a service I already pay for and have no problems with. Might point her here

ChildrenAtHeart Thu 06-Mar-14 14:24:25

I cannot see how Childminder Agencies will achieve the Government aims.
Costs: There are no subsidies or funding for them so they will have to be profit-making businesses to operate. The only clients will be parents and childminders who will presumably have to pay to access the agency's services, as the money isn't coming from anywhere else. The parent will lose out twice - paying the agency fee & the CM putting up their own fees to compensate for their lost income to the agency (figures upwards of £800 membership for CMs have been suggested).
Quality: Agencies will be responsible for regulating their members, not Ofsted. Ofsted will inspect the Agency leadership & management, not the quality of care provided although there is a proposed amendment in the Children & Families Bill to make agency childminders more accountable. Ofsted will inspect a random number of Agency minders but not for their quality of care, only to see how well the Agency deliver their services. From a safeguarding point of view this is VERY worrying. Currently all CMs get an individual inspection and grade and receive unbiased support from their Local Authority. With the advent of agencies this support is being slashed countrywide.
Easing burdens: It is actually quite easy to register as a Childminder already. It is mostly done via your Local authority Early Years Service who provide advice and support. It involves some time & effort but I don't see that as a negative thing. Being a Childminder requires time and effort too, not to mention a lot of patience, dedication and good knowledge of child development. This is not achieved overnight. Agency Childminders will still have to follow the same procedures and requirements to register as those who do it independently. The only difference is that all aspects will be through the Agency who will also be the registering body, rather than through Ofsted with LA support. Paperwork/admin burdens: most of the paperwork a CM does cannot be done by a third party like an agency, as it is based around children's development records: observations, assessments, planning, and self reflection. Other paperwork such as arranging insurance takes very little time. The only other paperwork is that of invoicing, chasing payments and keeping business accounts which an agency could help with but again most of it doesn't take that long and there are a number of dedicated cm accountants out there and accounts software available.
All in all I believe creating Agencies is just creating an unnecessary middle man which duplicate current services whilst decimating the existing support systems that could have been developed instead, such as the LA early years teams and development workers and Childminder Networks (a quality assurance scheme).
The greatest concern is that although agencies are not compulsory independent childminders will lose access to all current support and so will be forced into joining agencies in order to access this. I am not against agencies if the existing services for independent cms remain and their is a GENUINE choice BUT I am totally against the loss of individual inspections for ALL CMs by Ofsted. If agencies were simply an alternative model/quality assurance scheme but all it's members were still individually inspected by Ofsted I believe there would be nowhere near the resistance to them as now.

blueberryupsidedown Thu 06-Mar-14 14:50:02

Same as above. I don't see how it would reduce cost to parents, or improve quality. To me, it will have little benefit - all my clients are through recommendation, and if I was to advertise I'd receive many calls a day as there is a shortage of childminders/nurseries in our area.

One of the reasons why I love my job is because I am my own boss, I cannot see how it would benefit me to be part of an agency.

I am afraid that agencies will make promises they can't keep.

I don't know about other childminders, but once I have a family they tend to stay with me for one, two, three years so I don't have a big rotation of children and I don't ever 'look' for a new child. Therefore I don't see the need for a middle man to do any marketing for me.

I do think that all childminders should be inspected by the same organisation, and that's why I fundamentally disagree with the proposal.

Retropear Sat 08-Mar-14 07:13:40

I also actually think a third party when choosing childcare isn't desirable.

With my families I was approached by people I knew,recommended or stalked in one case having been observed from afar for a while.grin

I worked in an average sized town with a strong community I guess.There are lots of childminders and I'd personally be happy to use all of them as I know them all.

Over the years we've attended the same pre-schools and schools with our own children.I've seen them in action at toddler groups,music groups etc.All of said childminders work closely with the pre-schools and schools who also know them well.We had regular meetings,shared resources,trips,ideas etc and supported each other.We also used to recommend each other and would know who would be ideal for a particular family,who had spaces etc.

It seems to work very well and I think the above is far more beneficial to families(and children) then a faceless agency taking money.

Viviennemary Sat 08-Mar-14 17:56:11

I don't think it's a very good idea for either childminders or parents. I'd want to choose my own childminder and not go through an agency. The best way to choose a childminder is by personal recommendation.

slightlyglitterstained Sat 08-Mar-14 20:31:00

To me as a potential customer, it sounds a bit like a chance for a Tory donor to make some more money out of me by providing sweet FA and raking it in from both sides. I wouldn't trust a childminding agency any more than any other recruitment agency.

Surely the whole point of going to a childminder is that it's personal?

LaydeeJayne Sat 08-Mar-14 20:54:48

I think the same as most of the above posters. Why on earth are they going to introduce an agency middleman where there is no need for one? I have spent 4 years building up my own successful business, reputation and Ofsted grading - I have no intention of letting an agency take the credit for that. I have not come across one single childminder who thinks this is a good idea and I would be interested to know if anyone has. Liz Truss needs to start listening.

TheJumped Sat 08-Mar-14 21:49:47

I use a lovely childminder, she is rated Outstanding by Ofsted which is one of the reasons I went to see her - her lovely kind manner and relaxed attitude with children (in a good way, she is so chilled she's horizontal and gives me great advice on toddler tantrums and many other aspects of childcare!)

Childminders are inherently a slightly scarier choice for many as you're trusting an individual, rather than buying into a scheme like a nursery. I need to be able to put my full trust in her, and also she is totally flexible and works with me - if she needs time off I try to accommodate that, if I need extra care or don't need a day she will try to accommodate me too. But essentially I trust her with my largely non verbal toddler, to care for him in her own home. It takes a huge amount of trust, more so IMO than using a nursery.

I feel like all the good things about a childminder are slightly undermined by the suggestion that they need to be part of an organisation. There would be pressure to standardise lots of things to make agency standards clear to the customers, like cost, food, hours and so on that most childminders like to negotiate and discuss.

But mostly I would really really struggle to trust an individual who wasn't inspected by Ofsted, only by the agency who is reliant on the childminders' success to survive itself! It's like schools' self-assessment, when Ofsted rely on this and don't ask the right questions, schools which should be unsatisfactory are graded outstanding and vice versa.

I agree that it is a way for private companies to make money at the expense of services which have been developed often over many years by local authorities and voluntary groups.

I sometimes think this government want to abolish local authorities altogether and have everything run by private companies sad

halfwayupthehill Sat 08-Mar-14 22:33:04

I needed a cm to do wraparound care for my recpetion child and look after my young toddler five days a week. I was immediately limited to the three or four who did the school run to my dc's school. Then one never did younger children ...two only did four days a week and none had any vacancies anyway. So an agency wd have been pointless.

evelynj Sat 08-Mar-14 22:58:46

I'm a prospective childminder & the only pro I can see is from first time parents not having a word of mouth recommendation or being wary if someone not being accredited as part of a group and as pp have said big drawback is parents effectively paying double for services rather than 'interviewing' potential cms and standards slipping under the perceived safety net of an agency

JellyTipisthebest Sun 09-Mar-14 03:50:57

I live in New Zealand and I am in the process of becoming a home based carer (child-minder) Here you go to an agency and they come out and visit your home and do all the paperwork needed to become registered.

From what I can work out some agency's collect the money from the parents so you don't have to. They charge about $11 a week for this. The agency then pay the home based carer. I will have to fill in an on line time sheet for every child. The agency also sort out the 20 hrs free for 3 year old and any other subsidy the parents are entitled to. The agency also have to visit each child in your once a mouth this means each child has to be in care at least 9hrs and seams to mean that childminders don't do wrap around care for pre-schools. They also help with guidance on the paperwork side which I think is very similar to the UK. I can see one plus of how it works here is there is support for those new to it. There is also someone who you should be able to talk about concerns about a child with how should also know the child. If this works in practise I don't know yet.

Cindy34 Sun 09-Mar-14 08:05:40

Jelly - how does the $11 compare to cost of childcare? Is it an hour worth, 2 hours worth, 3 hours? Sounds quite a low admin fee, though does it vary depending on number of children being cared for?

What will this agency do that isn't already out there. I got a list of registered cms from my local council, for free, fired off emails and phone calls, for free, visited those with spaces, for free, and picked the CM that we liked best. All for free.

I love my CM to bits, she loves ds and ds love her and her family.

Waste of time and money is what this is

sleeplessbunny Sun 09-Mar-14 17:22:57

I think this proposal could help more individuals who may be worried about the paperwork side to take up childminding. Our CM is fabulous and I suspect wouldn't need this support, but the amount of paperwork she has to do is mind-boggling and I can see how it would put a lot of people off. It's also very difficult for her when she or her assistant is unwell. In areas where there is a lack of decent childcare, encouraging people to set up as CMs at a fairly low risk must be a good thing I think. However, I do have reservations about how it might be implemented and how it will affect other CMs who are already up and running successfully. Potential additional charges are also a concern.

Greenrememberedhills Sun 09-Mar-14 22:58:40

A concern I had when i used agencies for nannies is that they need to place nannies. That is how they are paid.

They often want to do so quickly as it is less hassle for them, and cheaper on their overheads eg admin time.

So they ascertain your specific needs and they coach the prospective nannies in interview answers to meet them. I'm sure not all do, but mine did so. The nannies told me so.

JellyTipisthebest Mon 10-Mar-14 01:07:20

I will be charging about $6 per hr the government only pays just over $4 per hrs for the 'free' hrs. I will have to justify the extra by saying something like I provide sun hats and suncream. I think the agency also get money for sorting out the 'free' house and the other subsidies. Just looked and it $11 per fortnight for payroll for the parents its the same service they use for the nannies as well. Can't really work out how they make money. They must get money from somewhere as the people that visit drive company cars. All seams a bit strange. Can't link you to any on here as there are rules about what you can say on social media in my contract. If you google home based care New Zealand you can look at how some of them run. One of them is run as part of a charity that works with children that is also in the uk. The must make money but I have no idea how.

Cindy34 Mon 10-Mar-14 06:50:31

Found a based Enrolment 2013, parent(2).pdf Parent Info Pack from one of the New Zealand service providers (Agency?)

Spotted that they say ALL providers are closed on statutory holidays. That seems rather controlling, what if a home based provider wanted to be open? What if parents work for an organisation/company which does operate on a statutory holiday? Must be very hard those who work in medical, armed forces, police, fire & rescue, retail, hospitality, all sorts of occupations.

Jelly, constraints on what you can post on social media is something else people need to consider. If working for an agency, you have to abide by their rules, some of which you may not agree with.

Childminders in the UK are currently running their own business and I see these agencies coming in will mean that will change. There will be a boss, with admin staff, whose policies childminders may not fully agree with. Control is moved from being with the childminder to a company... will that result in some providers stopping?

Cindy34 Mon 10-Mar-14 06:51:34

http://www.selwyntoddlers.co.nz/sites/selwyntoddlers/files/Home based Enrolment 2013, parent(2).pdf

based Enrolment 2013, parent(2).pdf Link

Cindy34 Mon 10-Mar-14 06:53:37

That link is not going to work... It has strange codes in it which Mumsnet does not seem to like.

Link will this work

HSMMaCM Mon 10-Mar-14 07:06:52

I can't see how the agency will save much paperwork though. They can't log the children's hours, they can't do observations or planning for the children, they can't write their daily diaries. The invoicing and policies are a very small part of the admin involved.

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