Welcome to PACEY’s regular policy update, which provides a summary of the latest policy developments in England and Wales concerning childcare and early years, and how we are representing your views to key decision makers.
PACEY is excited to report that we are part of a new national childminding forum which enables the leading childminding organisations in the UK to discuss common challenges and share and develop effective solutions. Made up of senior representatives from PACEY in England and Wales, the Scottish Childminding Association (SCMA), and the Northern Ireland Childminding Association (NICMA), the forum ‘meets’ four times a year virtually via webinar. Childcare and early years is a devolved area of policy in the UK, which means it can vary quite a bit from country to country. The forum has become a very useful means of comparing and contrasting developments across the UK. For example, at our most recent meeting, we learned that registered childminders in Scotland and Wales are permitted to deliver funded places to related children, whilst in England this is still not possible. The information shared through the forum will help provide evidence for PACEY’s advocacy work, as well as long-term strategies for sustaining high quality home-based childcare in the UK.
Our long-awaited meeting with the minister responsible for childcare and early years, Robert Goodwill MP took place this month. We raised three main issues with the minister: the need for a workforce strategy that enables all early years practitioners to progress their careers; more targeted support for childminders; and sustainable funding for 30 hours for all providers. Although we are currently operating in a very challenging policy environment, with the Government’s attention dominated by Brexit and the economy, we remain hopeful that our key concerns will be addressed.
“If you want to know any information about childminders, you go to PACEY”
Tracy Brabin MP introduced PACEY CE Liz Bayram
We explained to the minister and his team how the ban on childminders providing funded places to related children is contributing to a decline in childminder morale and sustainability. It is forcing many parents to take their child out of a relative’s setting, regardless of the best interests of the child and the wider family. It is also perceived by childminders as deeply unjust, as it does not affect staff in non-domestic settings such as pre-schools and nurseries. On top of this, it is nonsensical, as it does not apply to larger, more long-term childcare entitlements such as Tax-Free Childcare and the childcare element of Working Tax Credit/Universal Credit, and does not exist in Scotland and Wales.
Our Chief Executive, Liz Bayram, also eloquently raised the issue at a high profile lobby event in Parliament on the effects of 30 hours childcare organised by shadow early years minister Tracy Brabin MP. You can find out more about the event on our Twitter feed here. The event took place just before MPs debated 30 hours once again in Parliament (watch the full debate here). Earlier in the day, the Department for Education (DfE) published new statistics on 30 hours which revealed that 90% of eligibility codes issued for 30 hours have been validated. However Liz and many others, including MPs from all political parties, explained that delayed payments and red tape were continuing to plague the administration of the free entitlement in many areas. This, coupled with low funding, means that delivering 30 hours is less likely to be workable for providers in the long term. We need a long term sustainable funding plan and better enforcement of the statutory guidance.
Providers and professional bodies discuss 30 hours with Robert Goodwill MP
and Tracy Brabin MP after the debate
As your professional body, PACEY has a responsibility not only to lobby for policy change, but also for clarity over what the rules are, so that you are as well informed as possible. For this reason, we were pleased to finally receive confirmation from the DfE that a childminder providing wraparound care for a three- or four-year-old taking up their 30-hour place at a school may be able to invoke the exception to the usual ratios outlined in the EYFS. A number of PACEY members identified early on that the exception in 3.42 of the EYFS could be interpreted to apply to three-year-olds attending a school nursery full-time, which is more likely to happen in light of 30 hours. We have been working for several months to confirm with the DfE and Ofsted what the rules actually are. The news provoked a strong reaction on social media – perhaps understandably, given the unsuccessful attempt to change the ratios in 2013. PACEY is strongly committed to the existing childminding ratios, which have been in place since the 1970s. However, we also support childminders' right to vary their ratios in strictly limited cases based on their experience, professionalism and expertise.
If you have any questions or comments about our policy work in England, please get in touch.
It has been a busy month in Wales as the Childcare Offer moves forward in pilot areas and work on the development of the new qualification framework gains pace.
AWARE (All Wales Association of Representatives of EYDCP's)
Cwlwm partner organisations in Wales, including PACEY Cymru, were invited to attend the recent AWARE meeting comprising of representatives from Local Authority childcare teams. This was an opportunity to share key priorities for Cwlwm over the next six months and answer any questions. Alongside ongoing work will focus on supporting the development in Wales of:
A number of concerns have been raised with us by PACEY members and a small number of Local Authorities in Wales on inconsistencies between information given and requirements on local issues. If you have any concerns in this area please do not hesitate to raise this with us by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We are able to provide guidance and support to you and take forward on a local and national level. This includes issues with:
- Environmental Health Ratings Scheme
We have been informed of growing issues around inconsistent information and inspections by Environmental Health in some areas in Wales and some childminding settings being given Environmental Health Ratings when they are exempt. We are taking these forward and this issue is to be discussed at the next Public Health Wales meeting in November.
- Trade Waste and Childminders
We are aware of growing concerns that childminders are being asked to pay for trade waste collections and have taken this to Welsh Government for guidance. We have a stock response now that can be forwarded to any Local Authorities where issues arise.
- Local planning issues
We are also aware of ongoing issues in a small number of Local Authorities in Wales where planning charges are impacting on sustainability and are taking these forward on a local and national level. In line with the change to regulation in April 2016 you can read the information we shared on this at the time which may support any response you are looking to make.