Hardworking parents stand to save money in a new measure to increase childcare options across the country, Education and Childcare Minister Elizabeth Truss announced on Friday.
The number of childminders has almost halved over the last 20 years and plans unveiled today aim to cut the red tape burden from childminders who look after children in their homes and give them the support, training and advice they need to deliver a high quality service for parents.
Earlier this month figures showed that the cost to parents of after school care provided by childminders has fallen for the first time in 12 years – from £72.79 to £64.75, potentially saving parents up to £420 per year.
However there is much more to do, so a freeze on the fees childminders pay to Ofsted for the fifth year in a row has been announced, keeping them at a low £35 per year. Childminder agencies are also being introduced to boost the number of people joining the profession - giving parents more choice and flexibility to meet their childcare needs.
Education and Childcare Minister Elizabeth Truss said: “I want parents to have better access to affordable, high quality childcare. Freezing fees and reducing the bureaucracy will encourage new childminders to enter this vital profession.
“We know that good early education gives children the best possible start in life. Childminders are an important part of this and offer huge flexibility for parents - we want to see their numbers increase.”
A recent report found that after 12 years of consistently rising prices, costs in England have fallen for the first time – putting more money in the pockets of parents.
Figures also show that more families are using nannies and nanny shares– indicating parents’ need for home-based flexible care.
Alongside the fees freeze, a consultation has today been published to look at the technical details of how childminder agencies will operate from September 2014.
The consultation will look at:
• the annual fee agencies will pay in line with that of nurseries at £220;
• the number of hours of professional development offered to childminders;
• the number of quality assurance visits provided by the agency;
• the number of hours of direct support from agencies to childminders; and
• the role of local authorities, particularly the power they have to intervene in local markets and their role in delivery.
Professor Kathy Sylva from Oxford University said: “There is an exciting opportunity for childminder agencies to work more closely to their mutual benefit with Teaching Schools or primary schools with Foundation Stage provision: parents would then have access to a blend of centre-based and home-based care, which might benefit parents and children alike.”
The Children and Families Act introduced the powers to create childminder agencies and the consultation builds on this to create a service that is functional and flexible for all.
The government has also taken further action to reduce the burden on childminders by removing the requirement for separate registration if a childminder is providing food – this will now be done automatically when they are registered with Ofsted.
In September good and outstanding childminders were enabled to offer the free 15 hours of childcare for 3 and 4 year olds.
The government has also announced further help for working families, including the new Tax-Free Childcare scheme. As part of the long term economic plan, Tax-Free childcare will enable more parents to go out to work, if they want to, to provide greater security for their families.