In recent days, as many registered childcare providers continue to follow government guidance and remain closed to all but the children of critical workers and vulnerable children, we have seen a growing number of organisations and individuals promoting unregulated childcare services for these groups. Some of these offers are from large childcare search companies who are charging fees for the matching services they are promoting, often with little reference to the regulations that govern registered childcare services; others – with good intentions and less focus on their profit margin – are offering support for free, including promoting the services of volunteers willing to give up their time to care for these children. It worries me and it is certainly worrying many of our PACEY members who are contacting us to raise their justifiable concerns.
In these uncertain times, when families are under immense pressure both financially and mentally, I think it is more important than ever that their children are cared for by registered and regulated childcare providers who are well qualified, insured, DBS-checked and – most important of all – have the skills and experience to support children’s development, keep them safe and reassured.
Services that offer cheap or free childcare are missing the point. All children, but especially our youngest whose early development is a rollercoaster of new experiences and milestones in relatively short timeframes, need teaching that is child focussed, well-rounded – so much more than a babysitting service. Just last week, ITV News reported on well-intentioned medical students from London offering free childcare for NHS workers in their local area. Yes they were DBS-checked, but they had no public liability insurance; no child development knowledge and seemed unaware of the Ofsted regulations governing childcare. Many PACEY members raised concerns and we contacted ITN to point out the issues.
We are hearing from hundreds of members concerned that unregulated childcare is appearing in their local area and that, alongside having to close to their usual families, they are now having to compete with unregulated caregivers to provide support to critical workers. This isn’t a short-term challenge that will end when COVID-19 is gone. This is also threatening the long term sustainability of registered childcare provision; the services that families will need to rely on when life returns to normal; the services that ensure our youngest children achieve good levels of development and are ready for school could be decimated. They cannot compete with cheap or free childcare.
Ultimately the law is clear, caring for a child for more than two hours a day in your own home for payment without being registered with Ofsted or CIW is illegal. In the struggle to support critical workers to find the childcare they need right now we must not throw away the importance of high quality, safe care for their children.
At PACEY our focus has always been on supporting registered providers. We have and will continue to share with Ofsted/CIW and government examples of both well-meaning as well as profiteering promotion of unregulated childcare services. If you hear of any, please do the same. Ofsted and CIW have suspended their routine inspections so should have more capacity to look into these cases, so long as we are all telling them.
And PACEY is doing all it can to encourage registered providers to consider opening for key workers and vulnerable children and then supporting them to find these families. We will share more of this in the next few days.
All because we believe that all children, especially in times of difficulty as now, deserve to receive their care and early education from well qualified, knowledgeable practitioners who know how to support children.