‘Childcare cost could rise and quality suffer’ under Government reforms

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Government plans to introduce new childminder agencies could push up the cost of childcare for parents, a survey suggests.

It reveals that many childminders believe these agencies could leave them facing higher business expenses, which they could pass on to families.

The survey of more than 1,000 childminders found that many doubt whether the Government’s reforms will make childcare more affordable, and are concerned that it could undermine quality.

Ministers announced plans earlier this year for new agencies which they have described as “one-stop-shops” to help childminders with training, business support and advice.

Agencies will be registered with and inspected by Ofsted, the Government said, which should reassure parents about the quality of childcare they offer. Childminders will not have to join an agency and can retain their independence and undergo individual Ofsted inspections instead.

But the new IPPR survey reveals that almost nine in 10 (86 per cent) of childminders believe that introducing agencies would increase their business costs because of membership fees, which would mean that the costs to parents could rise.

Just 7 per cent were in favour of moving away from childminders being inspected individually and towards agencies being inspected collectively.

The study also found that many believe there should be specific requirements for becoming a childminder.

Almost three quarters (73.2 per cent) would like to see minimum requirements to practise – such as having or working towards a relevant qualification in early years education.

The report comes weeks after the Government was forced to ditch proposals to relax rules on the numbers of youngsters nursery staff and childminders could care for.

Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg blocked the childcare ratio proposals, later saying that the plans were widely opposed by parents and experts, and could have pushed costs up.

Under the proposals – put forward as part of a bid by the Government to make childcare more affordable and raise standards – each member of staff would have been able to look after four children aged under one rather than three. The ratio for two-year-olds would have risen from four to six per adult. But childcare experts raised concerns and Mr Clegg said he was not persuaded the changes were right.