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Problems with our childminder

27 replies

worriedmum1234 · 10/12/2005 01:10

I have been having some recent trouble with my childminder which I have outlined below. I would be greatfull to anybody who can offer any advice on what to do next and answer any of the questions below:
(I am sorry that this is such a long post but it has caused me great distress)

Diary of Events

Wednesday 23rd November 2005
Our childminder informed us that she was having a new fitted kitchen, work commencing on the 28th November 2005. She informed us that she would phone Ofsted tomorrow to check that she was ok to continue as normal with our childcare arrangement. This was not the 4 weeks notice required for a foreseeable disruption to our childminding service.

Thursday 24th November 2005
Our childminder informed us that she had phoned Ofsted and said that they confirmed that it was ok to continue with childminding while the building work was taking place.

Monday 28th November 2005
Upon arrival at our childminders she stated that she had no water, electric or heating and further the kitchen and lounge resembled a building site. My kids had gone for two hours without water and heating and had to sit in their coats until I collected them. My childminder told me that she had taken my daughter to a friend?s house for the day before collecting my son from school and returning to her house I explained that this was a problem for us as both my husband and I are contracted to work set hours each day and could not arrange through work this time off work. My husband and I were not happy that she had taken our daughter to a house that we didn?t have any information on or the identity of the friend where she took her? And whether the house was safe and registered with Ofsted?
My childminder stated she had tried to make contact by telephone this afternoon, to inform me of the situation and I explained that I was sorry but I had been in meetings all day but that my husband was available. I had previously given my husbands telephone number as an alternative contact.
She then told me that in the future me she could only have my daughter until 3.15pm ( our contracted hours are until 5.15pm ) as she would continue to take her to her friends house and because she had no water or electric or heating she couldn?t pick my son up from school and take them back to her house.
At this stage we felt our children were not being cared for in line with the national childminding standards laid down by Ofsted.
This disruption to our childminding service was not an unforeseen event, as she elected to have her kitchen renovated and it was possible for her to provide the 4 weeks notice of a disruption, as required by the contract. At this stage we were then forced to arrange to take unpaid leave from work for the rest of this week to ensure our children were safely looked after, as we felt she couldn?t provide an adequate safe childminding service, with her house being in its present state. I was concerned for the safety of my children.

Tuesday 29th November 2005
With great difficulty my husband took today off work to care for our children. My husband phoned our childminder to express our feelings and our decision and she agreed.

Wednesday 30th November 2005
I took today off work to care for our children. Our childminder phoned whilst I was at the bank counter and I was unable to take the call. Later I collected my son from school at 3.15pm and then took my daughter to the doctors at 3.30pm. Our childminder phoned a second time whilst in the doctor?s surgery and I was unable to take the call. I drove home and our childminder passed me in her car.
Upon arriving home our childminder knocked loudly on the door just as I had got in with my children.
She was very abrupt and angry, shouting at me and upsetting both my children and myself. A lot of accusations were made against me including that I was a bad mother, naturally this upset me immensely.
She presented me with a bill for November?s childminding and she said that she wouldn?t charge us for the 29th and 30th November 2005, I agreed that she should not be paid for these days.
She explained that she needed the money as soon as possible and we agreed to deliver the money owing for the month of November around to her house this evening.
My husband went to her house this evening and paid the money owing and looked around the house and further explained to our childminder that the house was unsafe to look after our children, and both agreed that my husband and I would look after our children until Monday 5th December 2005 because of these circumstances.

Sunday 4th December
My husband telephoned our childminder to make sure everything was ok for the following day which is when she assured my husband that the condition of the house had improved and that the electric and water were back on and the house was now clear of building work and everything was once again safe and tidy.

Monday 5th December
I had to take our son to school and my husband had to take our daughter to our childminder as we were running late. As my husband arrived he was greeted by our childminders son who informed him that our childminder had gone out at which point my husband left and took our daughter home he had to urgently arrange to have the day off work causing great disruption to his professional life. At no point during that day was he contacted by the childminder. We later found she had left an answer phone message on my mobile phone which I could not use due to being in training. My husband went to collect our son at school where he met our childminder, she apologized and said she had had an emergency meeting with the council tax office, he told her that he was not pleased but was sympathetic and we agreed to put it down to a series of misunderstandings.

Tuesday 6th December
I took our daughter to our childminders in the morning, she opened the door picked up my daughter took her lunch bag and closed the door without saying a word. I was upset about this and felt I should have taken our daughter back home. I felt very uneasy about this lack of communication from her, unfortunately as my husband and I had missed three days of work and due to our present financial situation, we felt we had no choice but to let our children stay with our childminder for this day.
When I collected our children that night our son opened the door and stepped out, I picked up my daughter and our childminder gave me a note with instructions to pass on to my husband then closed the door abruptly.
I gave the letter to my husband; it was a bill for the week before. We felt that an adequate childminding service was not available for all of that week and did not agree on the amount charged. My husband phoned our childminder and told her he did not agree with the bill, she disagreed then gave us her Ofsted registration number and an Ofsted contact number and told us to resolve this matter with Ofsted. My husband told our childminder he was going to contact the authorities as he did not believe the charges were correct. My husband phoned this number and had to leave a message as the office was closed.

Wednesday 7th December
I took our daughter to our childminder in the morning she took my daughter and the lunch bag off me and shut the door again with no word spoken.
My husband received a return call from Ofsted advising him that they could not get involved but to contact the investigations team, as my husband was busy at work, my husband passed this number to me and I contacted them. They informed us that they would investigate and get back in touch with us as the investigation progressed. Me and my husband had a long discussion and decided that we would give our childminder notice of her 4 weeks termination of contract. As at this stage we did not feel we could resolve our differences and continue with this childminding service.

Thursday 8th December
I took our daughter to our childminder the letter of notice was in the lunch bag for ease of transport. When I arrived she took Chloe off me and the bag and shut the door I had no time to explain that the letter was in the bag, as again she refused to communicate. I felt extremely uneasy leaving my children in her care but was forced to go to work to be able to provide for my family.
I collected our children this evening she handed me the lunch bag and a second bag which contains a selection of clothes, nappies etc. that she usually keeps until Friday and again shut the door without talking.
I got home and found another bill in my daughters bag consisting of all the weeks up to the 5th of January 2006 (her notice period) including last week which is under investigation up to which totaled £1,093.00. These bills did not match bills issued earlier.
My son told me that our childminder had told him she would not be seeing him again, and she had nothing to say to us. We were shocked that she would relay a message of this type through our 4 year old son and believe this to be a grave breach of the standards of care we expect from our childminder. We understand that she may have felt we had resorted to communicating via messages passed by our children but this was not the case and I was willing to discus the matter and on any of the previous mornings or evenings. Putting our children in the middle of an already awkward situation has put great strain on them and caused them great distress. We are very upset about this and it took my husband sometime to console our son.

Friday 9th December
We took our daughter to our childminder as normal. When we returned this evening to pick up our children we noticed that the baby walker which we had given to our childminder some months previously was next to the pram which we usually collect on a Friday. We knocked on the door which was answered by our son who was ready to go, my daughter and son were sent out to us again our childminder made no attempt to communicate. My husband passed her the negotiated weekly rate (we have an informal arrangement whereby we pay part of the fees weekly and make up the remaining fees at the end of each month). Our Childminder she said she deduct this payment from the amount owed for the contested week before; we disagreed immediately and reminded her that that week was under investigation and that we would be giving her no fees for that week until the authorities had investigated this matter. At this stage she started to act aggressively and to raise her voice saying that we were being petty over the contract and that she would be petty too, she then said she wanted the full amount for the week, which as we work monthly, we did not have. She began to shout at myself about me not being bothered about my children?s welfare at which point my husband interjected and asked her to calm down.

She said that our 4 year old son had told her she needed to buy nappies which my husband told her he found ridiculous as we have always provided our childminder with a supply of nappies. She said that we had told him to say this, which my husband said was absurd. We have never relayed messages to our childminder via our children. Again she then again raised her voice and started saying I had been telling the world about my problems and playing on them, to which my husband interjected again and said our problems had nothing to do with her and she should concentrate on the welfare of our children when in her care, and again he had to tell her to calm down. At this point the situation had become very agitated and was causing my children distress. My husband asked me and me and my son to go round the corner to remove him from the situation as much as possible as he was frightened by our childminders aggressive behavior, as my husband did this the childminder again threw a torrent of abuse at me at point I decided I had enough, and despite the difficulty this would cause our professional lives we had no choice and I could not trust her with the safety and welfare of our children and the contact would have to be terminated with immediate effect to which she again directed abuse at me.

We left and came home and had to console both our children; our daughter was petrified from our childminders yelling and our son believed he had done something wrong and consequently would now not get any presents from Santa after more than an hour of reassuring them they eventually calmed down. Our son asked not to go back to the childminder as she now frightened him.

Are we liable for remaining term of the contract as we will not be using her services?
Should we report this to Ofsted?
What would happen if she were to take us to court?

OP posts:
UCM · 10/12/2005 02:03

She should be sacked immediately. I know what it's like, but don't leave your children in her care any more. The fact that she doesn't speak to you is enough. don't give her notice. Contact the NCMA for a childminder in your area. If not, use the Childrens Information Service. Where do you live?

jura · 10/12/2005 02:14

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

UCM · 10/12/2005 02:37

Sorry I must have sounded callous.

Lots of Hugs.xx

jura · 10/12/2005 02:45

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

bobbybobbobbingalong · 10/12/2005 05:11

And she's been okay up to now? I know having your kitchen fitted is stressful - but really it sounds like a complete personality transplant.

HappyMumof2TurtleDoves · 10/12/2005 08:03

OMG this is disgraceful behaviour!!! I hate reading stuff like this on here as I worry it reflects badly on the rest of us

Please don't leave the children with her again. She does not sound stable. Is she under a lot of stress??? (apart from the kitchen) Have there ever been any other outbursts/things which could have triggered this?

Yes, please do contact Ofsted. Her behaviour is appalling.

I have no idea about what would happen if she took you to court, Ofsted could probably advice you.

I would doubt very much you would be liable as she has been unreasonable in her behaviour, although you should probably check that out too.


jothorpe · 10/12/2005 10:30

The Ofsted helpline were right to say that they won't get involved in finanical matters and also right to give you the complaints team number - 0845 601 4772 (Wed 7th) You can also contact them via e-mail - see Ofsted Contact Details

They will NOT get involved with financial matters but will get involved in beach of National Standards.

I feel that your childminder is in breach of the following standards:

Physical Environment
4.1 - Premises made welcoming to children AND parents. Maintaind in a suitable state of cleanliness, repair and decoration.
4.5 - Rooms are maintained at an adequate temperature.
4.10 - Provision for hygienic storage, preparation, cooking and serving of food.
(Given that the kitchen was not usable, how was the childminder meeting this requirement?)

6.1 hazards to children are minimised.
(How much like a building site was the home?)
6.3 children are under direct supervision of the childminder or assistant at ALL times.
(Is her son her assistant?)

Food and Drink
8.2 Fresh drinking water is available to children at all times.
(This may have been available, eg. childminder could have got water from a neighbour)

Partnership with Parents
12.3 Parents fully informed of childminders routines. Opportunities to exchange information about child on daily basis. Prompt action taken on concerns raised and record of complaints maintained.

Full copy of the National Standards for Childminding can be viewed here

Ultimately, you have a contract with your ex-childminder. It is up to you if you stick with it's terms or if you dispute it. A claim could be made in a small-claims court, hard to know which way they would rule - though I suspect that if the contract states that you give a notice period, that you would be expected to pay for that period (thus your childminder giving you a bill for the period to 5th Jan). However I doubt they would insist on payment immediately, instead it could be spread out - so if you agree to pay the amount over a period of time, ie. in weekly installments, then I doubt much can be done. You may want to see legal advice - check your insurance policies as some household policies these days provide access to a free legal advice line.

Overall, from the sounds of things there has been a big breakdown in communication between your childminder and yourselves. This then escalated very quickly, leaving both sides of the issue feeling very disgruntled. Terminating the agreement was probably the best thing, as it can be hard to rebuild a relationship once it has broken down to this extent.

I would suggest paying fees owed for those weeks where childminding could have taken place. Where the premises was not in a suitable state for childminding, then I do not feel a fee should be paid.

Sounds like it's been a very stressful few weeks. Hope you are able to find another childcarer soon and that everything works out in the end.


badgerhead · 10/12/2005 11:13

This situation is absolutely disgraceful and it gives such a bad name to childminders. As a registered childminder I would not have expected anyone to leave young children with me with such major disruption going on in the house. We had a new kitchen fitted about 4 years ago & purposefully arranged for it to be done during our fortnights holiday in the summer. This year we had a new conservatory fitted & although this did not cause so much disruption some of the groundwork was done again during a weeks holiday, & then during our fortnight the garden was landscaped following the conservatory. This way it ensured minimal disruption to our routines & the children enjoyed watching the work being done. (One of the conservatory builders was actually one of my mindies dads)
I feel that you have approached this the correct way by trying to talk to your minder throughout, she has been most unproffessional in her behaviour towards you. I would recommend writing it all down in a factual way as you have done here and sending it into Ofsted with a copy to your childminder. If you don't know what address to use for Ofsted you can get it off the Ofsted web site. The guidance we have from Ofsted now is that we have to try and sort out disputes with the parents in writing. i.e. the parents need to write to the childminder outlining the problems and the childminder has to respond in writing within 28 days. As you have already contacted Odsted I would follow it up with them as well. Although they will not get involved with disputes over fees outstanding, they will only look at the behaviour & care side of your dispute. I suspect that your childminder is likely to try & recover any outstanding fees via county court, however as the dispute does stem from the care offered by her I would think that you have a reasonable chance of defending the amount being asked for. I don't know what type of contract you signed with your childminder but I would read the small print very carefully. If it is an NCMA contract termination is usually over how ever many weeks is stated on the contract, however can be immediate if serious concerns about the care are expressed. It is also possible for parents to contact the NCMA to express concerns over this type of dispute especially when a standard NCMA contract is used. Their telephone number is 08458800044.
Good luck with it all & I hope you find another childminder who is brilliant for you all.

newyearmum · 10/12/2005 11:45

Outrageous - I would see a solicitor asap. I can't imagine you'd have to pay for her notice period as she's clearly breached her contract in the way others have pointed out.

jambothesnowman · 10/12/2005 12:03

what disgusting behaviour.

Hope all gets sorted for you. I would deffo reprt her, if she's like this with your children she could be like this with other too.

good luck keep us updated

katymacracker · 10/12/2005 12:22

I'm speechless

I'm ashamed of my profession

I'm unhappy that anyone could think that having a kitchen fitted was not going to affect the care of the children

I am having a toliet fitted in the corner of the C/M ing playroom staring on Monday

I warned all parents back in September
I have rearranged furniture so that the children cannot reach that area
I have arranged mornings/afternoons out to reduce the dispruption
I have checked with all parents of children using the toilet that they are happy with their child either using a potty or going upstairs (as my downstairs loo might be out of comission)

If my water/elecric were of - I could not childmind - if I were cut off I would ask parents to come and collect them.

I cannot imagine this happening in an ordered childminding setting

I apologise for my "colleague"'s behaviour - I am sorry

ThePrisoner · 10/12/2005 15:07

Another childminder here - I too am appalled at your (ex) childminder's behaviour. As already said, OFSTED won't get involved in any financial disputes, and will only look into complaints about care of children. Unfortunately, even this will probably end up nowhere as I would imagine your minder will have a different story to tell, and it comes down to a "who do we believe?" scenario. It will be recorded on her file, albeit with an opposing statement from her perhaps. Having a complaint made against her might make her think twice about how she works in the future. She will probably have a visit from them, particularly because of the building work fiasco.

With regard to your notice period on the contract - this is difficult. I think that if a childminder is in breach of contract (her rubbish care), then you could argue that you don't really have a contract. The NCMA have a free advice line which is also for parents - 0800 16986. They can give you better advice than we may be able to.

I really feel for your children though, as I expect they just don't understand what is going on. It must be so upsetting for them - please tell them that the rest of us are lovely people! I really hope that this doesn't put you off using a childminder in the future.

lunavix · 10/12/2005 15:13

Poor kids.

Please don't be put of childminders, there are lots of us who'd be more than happy to look after your children properly and never subject them to a torrent of abuse like that....

Bless them

artyjoe · 10/12/2005 15:24

Another childminder here;

I don't know how you got past 30th November myself. I wouldn't have paid her a penny past that date and would dispute everything, report her to Ofsted and let her take you to court for the amount owed...I'd be surprised if she had the nerve to go to court, and, if so, then what have you got to lose? You could argue that you need those funds to cover the extra expense of emergency cover needed for your children. I would also suggest that if she takes you to court you could put in for the unpaid holiday leave to both yourself and your husbands work and the courts might even take into account the distress caused to your children.

Really, I wouldn't let her get away with this, it's a disgrace.

You may have a contract but by the sounds of it she is the one who hasn't abided by it.

I'm so sorry your children have had to go through this experience

Joe x

Jensmum · 10/12/2005 20:19

I cannot believe you had to go through all that.

I'm not sure what wuld happen if she took you to court but I think NCMA would be able to advise you on this situation or maybe CAB.

You do need to contact Ofsted and give them the information you have given us.

I hope your children are OK now

HellyBelly · 11/12/2005 08:41

Oh how awful, I'm shocked!! You must report her to Ofsted and phone the NCMA for advice (0800 169 4486) - I can't see why you should pay these bills/notice period as I'm sure she breached her own contract!

Good luck and hope you are all feeling a bit better now you know you won't be using her anymore!

worriedmum1234 · 11/12/2005 19:33

Just want to say thankyou for all of your messages, its nice to know that we are not the only ones thinking this is awful, our chldren were very upset by this, but they are alot happier now thankyou.
We are just worried about the fact if she does take us to court now, as we cant afford the money she is asking us for. my husband has only a temporary contract until the end of this month and now cant work because there are no childminding places available at this time of year, and we feel that his work place will not review it. very stressful time, when this is suppose to be a happy time of year. not sleeping too well either. Anyway just wanted to say thankyou for all your support. worriedmum.

OP posts:
HappyMumof2TurtleDoves · 11/12/2005 19:38

I really honestly think she has no grounds for taking you to court. She breached her contract. I think to take you to court would look very bad for her, as her behaviour would come to light.
Do, please make the complaint to Ofsted. She is not fit to be a childminder.
Let us know how you get on

Booh · 12/12/2005 08:37

Worriedmum........that is such an awful thing to happen.

Where abouts are you? (You don't have to put your address just a vague area!) There a few of us on here and I am sure that someone must be close to you who knows a good childminder!!!

Hope things look brigher soon

uwila · 12/12/2005 09:14

Worrriedmum, I think your childminder breached the contract, not you. If I were you and she threatened to sue me for breach of contract I would countersue for the amount of money I lost in my time of which was a direct result of her failing to provide suitable care, as required by the contract. I expect that would shut her up. I would also advertise to the world just what kind of childminder she is. How on earth can you be expected to leave your children with someone who can't behave like an adult?

Where do you live? Maybe someone on mumsnet could help you with temporary care?

kizzypie · 12/12/2005 09:29

Ive nothing different to add I just wanted to agree with what everyone else has been saying. I wouldnt worry about her trying to take you to court. What I would do which is probably not very professional is once its sorted out tell absolutely everyone I know ,especially the gossips what she has done. She doesnt sound fit to look after children and losing a bit of business might help her realise this.

Berries · 12/12/2005 10:28

sorry to hear about your problems. We went through a similar situation with a nursery years ago, and ended up going to court. Can't post all details now as haven't got time, put will post later, you can cat me if you like & I can go into more detail. It did all work out very well though.

pol25 · 12/12/2005 11:38

I think you should not take your children to the childminders and of course get the investigations team to look into her behaviour and how much she is charging you- I'm not sure the hourly rate you pay her and/or how many hours your children go to her.
As far as I was aware if you cannot provide an adequate standard of care- such as heat and water you should not be open?!
However, surely if you felt she was so bad why on earth did you keep sending you children???!!!

Tan1959 · 12/12/2005 23:08

Worriedmum: what area are you in - there are lots of lovely childminders here on mumsnet who may be able to help you with childcare

falalaala · 12/12/2005 23:24

i just wanted to say that this sounds like my worst nightmare and to reassure you from someone who employs a cm that i am so completely and totally happy with our arrangement that we're actually pretty good friends now. hope that you find someone perfect for you and your children and that you can put all of this behind you.

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