Where do you find a childminder?
Your local authority or council can send you a list of Ofsted-approved childminders. Your point of contact is the council’s Families Information Service (FIS). To find your local FIS, ring 0800 2346 346/0800 096 0296 or search at www.familyinformationservices.org.uk.
You can also search for childminders using your postcode at http://childcarefinder.direct.gov.uk/childcarefinder/ where you can instantly see which minders have vacancies, what ages they cater for, facilities provided, which schools they pick up from, if they cater for special needs or dietary requirements. This can help narrow down your options,
The Daycare Trust’s Childcare Finder service at www.daycaretrust.org.uk/fid uses the Department of Education’s Family Information Directory to give contact details for local minders.
However, nothing beats a personal recommendation – so use your contacts and think laterally. Good minders will be booked up, so plan ahead as far as possible before returning to work – find out which good minders have vacancies coming up, and keep in touch.
If you need childcare at short notice, www.emergencychildcare.co.uk can help you find registered local minders.
Are all childminders registered?
All childminders caring for children under eight years old must be registered and inspected by the Office For Standards in Education (OfSTED). OfSTED will carry out regular checks on the home and childminder, usually every three years, to ensure that their home is safe, child-friendly and welcoming, and that they are providing good care.
Ask your child minder if you can see their OfSted reports, which they should have copies of. You should be able to look up your childminders’ Ofsted rating and report at www.ofsted.gov.uk.
If your childminder only looks after over-7s, they don’t need to be Ofsted registered. However, they can still join the Ofsted Childcare register.
All adults over 16 living or working in the childminder’s home must be police checked.
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What training does a childminder have?
All childminders must attend introductory training in childcare before they can be OfSted-registered, and hold a certificate in paediatric first-aid. The Professional Association For Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) recommends that all new childminders take its introductory course ‘Understand How to Set Up A Home-based Childcare Service‘.
Many childminders hold further childcare qualifications such as NVQs (National Vocational Qualifications; usually up to Level 3), while others may be studying for them – ask about this when meeting minders.
Like day nurseries and pre-schools, childminders should plan your child’s day to include learning and devlopment activities based on the goverment’s Early Years Foundation Stage. In practice, this means they should monitor your child’s progress in matters including language, problem solving, emotional, creative and physical development.
Find out if your minder is a member of PACEY, and any childminding networks, which will have a commitment to setting quality standards and professional development.
What does a childminder charge?
Rates vary quite a bit depending on where you live.
In 2010, the average charge per hour in England and Wales was £3.84. So if you work 9 to 5, dropping off your child at 8am and picking up 6pm, that would mean £38.40 per day.
However, in London the average rate per hour is far higher at £5.02 or £50.20 per day. But in the West Midlands it nosedives to £3.38 or £33.80.
Can I use childcare vouchers to reduce the cost of childminding?
Yes, you should be able to as long as your employer is part of the scheme, and your childminder is Ofsted-registered and approved.
Many employers allow you to ‘sacrifice’ up to £243 of your pre-tax salary per month for childcare vouchers. These vouchers are then transferred to your childcare provider as part of your payment. In this way you avoid paying income tax and National Insurance on part of your salary, effectively reducing your childcare bills.
For more information, visit the Professional Association For Childcare and Early Years website.