Cathy's story

Cathy, ex-civil service worker, has been a childminder since November 2015. She became a childminder to look after her great-niece, but after 26 years on the benefits team, she realised that she could use also use her experience to help vulnerable families and hasn’t looked back since.

I look after a vulnerable two-year-old boy with Prader-Willi syndrome, Idris, alongside two other under fives. I’ve been looking after him since he was a year old for four full days each week, while his mum works as a teacher. I pick Idris up from home and drop him off in the evening, which takes away an element of stress for her. I receive two-year-old funding for him and his mum pays for the additional hours that aren’t covered. I’ve also recently been awarded extra funding for him from the SEND panel, which will really help.

Balancing all of the children’s needs

Prader-Willi syndrome means that Idris constantly wants to eat and struggles to walk and talk, so there are challenges involved in looking after him, but we spend so much time together, we have developed a good relationship and the other children love him. I usually have two other younger children, so I have to balance how I’m going to manage with all three of them, especially when we’re out and about, which they love. I’m in a childminding group and we do forest school together, as a couple of the childminders are in training to be forest school leaders.

Preparing for school

I’ve incorporated Idris’s speech therapy into my day. I have a childminder colleague who comes to look after the other children, so I can give him that one-to-one time. Mum wants him to go to mainstream school, so we are preparing him together, now that he’s almost three. From being with me in a childminding setting, Idris is used to being around other children and joining in with the activities. It’s a good start for school. His mum and I work really closely together on his development and it’s really important that childminders are able to do that close work with the parents as well as the child.

Because it’s in a home environment and more personal, being with a childminder is an easier transition to nursery or pre-school as well as to full-time school. When we do school pick ups and drop offs, the children get used to the idea of being at school or nursery.

Benefits for All

The main benefit for Idris is that he gets to be with children who don’t have disabilities, and mum goes to work reassured that her child is being well looked after. The children develop so much together; it’s lovely to see them becoming more confident and outgoing.  Because I belong to a childminding group, we’re always out with other childminders, so a larger network of children and adults have got to know him. This has really helped because we have started fundraising for him to get extra therapy. We are also part of the wider community and so when he starts school, people will recognise him there.

I provide support for the parents as well. Some mums worry about the separation from their child, when they leave them with me. But I can go at their pace and work out a nurturing, settling-in process that suits them and the child.

Providing access to two-year-old funding in England

I signed up to provide the two-year-old funding because in the early days of being registered one of the little girls I looked after went to a nursery to access the funding and then came to me afterwards. I thought that didn’t make sense, so I investigated and realised that I could provide access to the funding as well. This really helps the families of the children I look after as well as attracting new ones I might not have been able to help otherwise.