Childminders fight Government plans

Childminder Debbie Ford
Childminder Debbie Ford

Angry childminders and parents across Chorley have joined forces to fight plans for new childminding agencies.

The Government plans to roll out agencies in September as a “one-stop shop” to help childminders with training, business support and advice.

Debbie Ford of Chapel Lane Coppull, and fellow childminders protesting at Government changes to  conditions.

Debbie Ford of Chapel Lane Coppull, and fellow childminders protesting at Government changes to conditions.

But childminders in Chorley are concerned about the impact agencies will have, both on their businesses and on the quality of childcare.

They have already taken to social media to voice their concerns, with many leaving messages on the Facebook page of Elizabeth Truss, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Education.

They have also signed petitions and some of the childminders will attend a clinic held by Chorley’s MP, Lindsay Hoyle, on Friday to seek his support.

Childminder Debbie Ford, 49, of Chapel Lane, Coppull, said: “There are so many childminders up in arms about this all over Chorley and Lancashire. There are about 50 of us in this area.

“I haven’t spoken to anyone who supports the agencies.”

The Government says childminders will be able to choose whether to remain independent or join an agency.

And while the agencies would be inspected by Ofsted, it is proposed that individual childminders would be monitored by the agency rather than Ofsted.

Debbie said: “We feel it is very important in order to maintain high standards of care that all childminders are graded by Ofsted on an individual basis, rather than umbrella ratings for agencies.

“I am an ‘outstanding’ childminder and have worked hard to get where I am.”

And she questioned whether agencies would bring down the cost of childcare, as she understands childminders will have to pay to join.

Debbie said: “It would make childcare costs rise and standards go down.

“The proposals mean I would probably have to resign because of the financial implications.”

Debbie is also worried about proposals for one childminder to go into a school and look after 30 children.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “The introduction of childminder agencies will open up new routes into the profession for high-quality childminders and will give more choice to parents.

“We are working with 20 organisations in trialling the agency approach, which will tell us more about how agencies might work and what models might be established.”