Plans to create childminder agencies, contained in the government’s More Great Childcare agenda published a week ago, have been included in the Children and Families Bill, prompting concern among professionals.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, said the government should have done more research before implementing a similar system to the hone used in Holland.
“Many of these [Dutch] agencies provide very little in the way of childminding support or training,” said Leitch. “We question why the government would create another layer of bureaucracy that may see parents and childminders pay more, while also duplicating the work of several organisations already in existence.”
Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association, said she was “disappointed” with the government for failing to consult professionals and parents on the introduction of childminder agencies, given that ministers are consulting on a range of other early years reforms.
Her organisation is about to embark on research to inform its response to the consultation on changes to staff-to-child ratios in childcare settings, another of the proposals contained in the More Great Childcare document.
“It is important to listen to the opinion of those with expertise in childcare provision – nursery practitioners and childminders on the frontline,” she said.
Tanuku, however, welcomed legislation included in the bill that will give early years providers the option to pay for re-inspection from Ofsted. “This will incentivise and reward providers to improve quality quickly,” she said.
Shadow minister for children and families, Sharon Hodgson, criticised the inclusion of the childminding agency legislation.
“Childminders and parents will be concerned about the government creating agencies in the face of opposition from the sector and without consulting on their proposals, which we know borrow heavily from the Dutch system, which multiplied costs to government and saw the quality of provision fall drastically,” she said.
The Children and Families Bill was launched by children and families minister Edward Timpson on 5 February 2013.