Childminders – the Pros and Cons
The question of childcare is perhaps the most important one faced by the working parents of small children. For a start, there are quite a few options to choose from. If you don’t have family or friends who are available (and willing) to look after your child you might consider finding a nursery, hiring a nanny or, of course, using a childminder.
In this article we take a look at the pros and cons of using a registered childminder so that you can reach an informed decision about whether you feel this option could provide your child with the safe, stimulating and nurturing environment that it needs for its development.
What is a registered childminder?
If a person is paid to look after one or more children under the age of eight (under 12 in Wales), for more than a total of two hours per day in a domestic setting, then they must be registered as a child minder.
A registered childminder is a childcare professional who looks after children (usually in their own home) for payment and is registered with one of the following bodies:
- Ofsted (in England)
- Care Inspectorate (in Scotland)
- Care and Social Services Inspectorate (in Wales)
- Health and Social Services Trust (in Northern Ireland)
Tasks a registered childminder might perform include the following:
- Provision of interesting learning activities
- Provision of indoor and outdoor free play activities
- Planning, preparation and serving of meals
- Nappy changing and potty supervision
- Making up bottles, whether formula or the mother’s expressed milk
- Outings for children
- Taking older children to and from nursery or school
The pros and cons of using a childminder
The potential advantages and disadvantages of a childminder will depend on you, your child, your circumstances and the individual childminder you choose. However, the pros and cons can be summarised as follows:
The pros of a registered childminder
- Registered childminders have an enhanced CRB disclosure, are health checked and have their homes/workplaces inspected by OFSTED to ensure they’re safe for children.
- Registered childminders in England must demonstrate that they meet the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) requirements. Similarly, childminders in Wales must demonstrate that they meet national standards.
- Most areas in the UK have lots of registered childminders to choose from, so it is usually easy to find someone local who meets your practical and geographical needs.
- Many childminders are parents so have very realistic and hands-on experience of how to care for babies and young children.
- In England, childminders can care for no more than six children under the age of eight (including any children of their own). Only three of these are allowed to be under the age of six, and only one is allowed to be younger than one. These limited numbers help to control the childminder environment and help to ensure that each child receives sufficient care and attention.
- Many childminder groups are comprised of children of various ages and this enables your child to get used to the company of children their own age as well as older and younger children.
- If you have multiple children, you can send them all to be cared for by the same childminder.
- Many childminders are committed to the activity and, as such it is common for many children to be looked after by the same childminder right from babyhood through to double-digit age. This continuity of care helps foster stability for your child and can lead to them establishing a lasting bond with the childminder.
- Good childminders will provide a range of stimulating activities – including visits to the park and other outside spaces.
- Childminders are self-employed and therefore can offer more flexibility, including, in some cases, help during emergencies and unexpected events.
- As childminders are self-employed you do not need to pay their tax or National Insurance (NI) contributions, unlike when you employ a nanny.
- When using a registered childminder you may be able to use the Tax-Free Childcare scheme to help you pay. Furthermore, if you receive Universal Credit, you may be able to claim back up to 85% of the monthly cost. Lastly, you may be able to use childcare vouchers or claim the childcare element of Working Tax Credit.
- If your child is three or four, you may be able to use your free weekly childcare allowance.
- A childminder may be part of a wider network of other childminders. If so, this can help you ensure childcare in the event that your usual childminder is unwell or otherwise unable to work.
The cons of a registered childminder
- Some parents may have concerns about a childminder who also cares for their own children. This is because they might worry that care of the childminder’s own children will receive priority over care for their own – they are professionals and this is not usually the case, but it may be something you feel nonetheless.
- Cost – while childminders’ fees vary across the country and between childminders and these fees will almost certainly be cheaper than some other childcare options, there is still a cost to this type of childcare. And, afterall, a childminder is running a business.
- Being cared for in a new and separate home environment can be quite demanding for children. This might mean that they may be very tired by the time you finish work in the afternoon or evening. And given that you may have to drop your child off at the childminder’s early each day, you may feel like you miss out on your child’s best hours.
- Some parents may have concerns relating to the type and level of care provided by a childminder – see our list of questions for a childminder to help in this case.
- If your childminder is not part of a local network, you may not be able to easily find alternative childcare in the event they are unwell or otherwise unable to work.
Questions to ask when finding a childminder
1. What are your qualifications?
Qualifications help a childminder demonstrate their understanding of the critical practical and care issues that come with the job. Essential qualifications include the following:
- A childcare qualification approved by your local council
- A paediatric first aid course
- Safeguarding training
- Food hygiene training
2. What did your last inspector report say?
All registered childminders in England are inspected by OFSTED – responsibility in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is devolved. Whatever the case, the childminder should have a detailed inspection report available for your consideration.
What is a typical day like for children in your care?
Childminder services differ depending on the provider and the children being cared for. Asking this question will help you establish whether your child will receive a suitable and stimulating care environment.
How will you keep me informed?
Communication is critical to your relationship with the childminder. The childminder should keep detailed records that explain your child’s experience and development as well as any issues they might be having. The childminder should communicate this in a way that keeps you informed on an ongoing basis so that you can stay abreast of your child’s development.
Will any of your customers give me a reference?
Seeking references about your childminder might seem daunting, but it can help you understand what sort of care your child might receive. Formal references from previous employers should be sought over the phone and it may help top ask around at your local childcare group to see if anyone has experience of a particular childminder. This is also a good way to find a suitable childminder in the first place. Another mum’s experience, backed up by some official research, can be a great way to find someone reliable with lots of positive experiences.
A registered childminder can be a great option for those who can afford it. They are flexible and registered professionals who receive regular inspections to ensure they meet certain standards. However, the question of whether a childminder is right for you will depend on your child and your own circumstances.