17. Apr, 2016

Returning to Work PART 1: Childminders

This is the first in a series of articles about returning to work and childcare issues, I will concentrate on care that is provided by a childminder.

Making the decision to work after you’ve had a baby is a big deal, all sorts of emotions are generated. If you haven’t/have done this before, the process and the choices available to you can be a daunting prospect.

CHILDMINDERS ARE REGISTERED

“Anyone who cares for children under the age of eight for more than two hours a day in England must register with Ofsted unless they are exempt…It is an offence to provide such childcare without being registered or on premises that have not been approved.”

EXEMPTIONS FROM REGISTRATION

There is a long list of complex exemptions but the main ones are:

  1. If they care for children who are aged eight and over.
  2. If they provide care where a child does not stay with them for more than two hours a day.
  3. If they only care for a child aged under eight who they are related to.
  4. If they care for a child aged under eight on domestic premises without receiving any payment for the services. Domestic premises can be their own home or someone else’s home.

CARE SETTING

A Childminder usually works from their own home, and you take your child to them. Some childminders offer overnight care, which can be helpful if you are a shift worker. They can work with other childminders, or employ assistants. This increases the number of children that can be looked after at any one time. Childminders who use assistants may only leave them alone with children for up to two hours a day with your permission.

QUALITY OF CARE

Registered childminders have to meet the same legislative and professional standards as nurseries and pre-schools. All have to meet the rigorous and exacting standards set by the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) statutory framework and are inspected regularly by Ofsted. It is not true that childminders offer a lesser educational provision than more formal settings such as nurseries or pre-schools.

NUMBER OF CHILDREN

At any one time a childminder may care for a maximum of 6 children under the age of eight including their own children. Of these 6 children a maximum of 3 may be young children and there should only be 1 child under the age of one. (A child is a young child up until 1st September following his or her fifth birthday)

EXCEPTION TO CHILD RATIO

Exceptions to these ratios can be made if there are sibling babies such as twins, or when the Childminder has their own baby, or if children are in the Reception class at school and are only attending the setting before or after school and in the school holidays – in these cases the Childminder must demonstrate to you, and to Ofsted that the individual needs of all children are being met, but the total number of children under the age of eight must not exceed 6.

COSTING

It is difficult to pin this down exactly because all childminding settings are different. In Cheshire East, childminders charge anything from £3 to £5 an hour. Some will offer half day or day rates, which may offer some saving on a straight hourly rate. Some will include food in their rate, some will charge extra if you want them to provide food. Childminders can differ also in whether they charge you for absences such as sickness or holidays. These are all things that will be detailed in your childminding contract.

Many childminders in Cheshire East are contracted to provide the Early Education Entitlement (FEEE) which depending on your circumstances provides up to 15 hours per week (in term time) of free childcare from the age of 2, but for all children from the age of 3. This can reduce your childcare bill considerably and can be used with additional paid hours from your provider, so you are not limited to the 15 hours a week.

WHAT OTHER PARENTS SAY

“They are more likely to be flexible in terms of start and finish times, this can be especially helpful if you work shifts of any description”

“A childminder can build a much closer relationship with the child and the family. Siblings can be kept together. They go out and about and experience real world situations. They can go to lots of different groups and activities meeting up with different children. Can be much more flexible around the specific needs of the family. The biggest con is that if the Childminder gets sick there is no backup."

HOW TO FIND A CHILDMINDER

The best and most comprehensive list of registered childminders is held by your local Family Information Service (FIS) Cheshire East has an excellent search tool. If you don’t know which local authority is responsible for the area where you want to hire a Childminder then enter the relevant postcode https://www.gov.uk/find-registered-childminder

In Part 2 of this series I will introduce nurseries and pre-schools.

Melanie