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Thursday, 30 July 2015

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Fears over changes to childcare

A WHITEHAVEN child-minder claims that new government childcare proposals would threaten pre-schoolers’ “well-being, health and education’’.

Nurseries and childminders in England are to be allowed to look after more children, but only if carers’ qualifications meet new standards, it was announced on Tuesday.

Children’s minister Liz Truss said the proposals, due in autumn, would make more childcare places available and reduce costs for parents in the “long term’’. However, it is feared this would also subsequently affect the level of care.

Miriam McAllister, who marked 25 years of childminding this week, said: “The proposals in my opinion will put the wellbeing, health and education of our youngest and most vulnerable children under threat, as it is not possible to give the children the same level of care and attention they currently have.

“The vast majority of childminders already work for well below the minimum wage, up to 12 hours a day with no lunch or refreshment break.’’

The government changes will mean childminders can look after two babies, instead of one, and four children aged between one and five, instead of three.

Miriam said: “As a childminder it will be impossible to take an increased amount of children in my car to do school or nursery pick-ups, or to go on trips away from my setting, which we do now very often. In fact, it would be difficult to take that many children on a simple walk on my own.’’

Ms Truss said childcare professionals should be better qualified. “It is no longer acceptable that childcare professionals are not required to have a GCSE grade C or above in English and maths.”

However, Miriam responded: “While I agree that childminders should have a good level of education, we are talking about pre-school children. Some adults with a high level of qualifications are useless with children, while some adults with little or no qualifications are brilliant.’’

Being a great childminder, she added, was “not on paper, it comes from the heart.’’

Another Whitehaven childminder, Allison Grey, said: “I am concerned the proposals would compromise safety. I am currently caring for a six-month-old baby, and two three-year-olds. Another child would mean we couldn’t go out exploring. The proposals would stop me being able to offer the fun, outdoor activities which parents are very keen on.’’

Lynne Pickering, a Whitehaven mother who has employed Miriam over the past seven years to care for her two sons, said: “The reason I wanted a childminder was because they provide care in a home environment and are an extension of your own family.

“As there are much smaller numbers of children, the childminder can take them out on trips to the beach, the farm, for walks and to soft play.’’

Lynne’s husband, Andrew, said: “I also found that with fewer children to watch, Miriam was always able to talk about them when I came to pick them up at the end of the day.

“Over the years you build a strong relationship with your childminder which is very important. You can’t put a price on good childcare.’’

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