Jane Webb is the support childminder coordinator in Milton Keynes, employed by Milton Keynes Council and working within the childcare team at Galley Hill Education Centre in partnership with the National Childminding Association (NCMA). She recounts how her local authority set up its support childminder scheme.

Why was the scheme developed?

Research by Sure Start showed that many potential childminders do not complete the registration process because of the lack of individual support. Considerable evidence shows that regular peer support is effective.

In a bid to counteract the problem, the government determined that all local authorities should develop support childminder schemes, and to start the process pathfinder schemes were set up in seven areas: Birmingham, Enfield, Leeds, Lewisham, Liverpool, Manchester and Medway. These areas were chosen because they all included areas of deprivation, high numbers of lone parents and were identified as being areas where childcare was particularly needed.In April 2004 funding was made available to all local authorities.

Setting up the scheme

Our first task was to find out if we had any childminders who would be willing to take on this support role.

  • Flyers were sent out inviting any childminders who had been registered for over two years to come to a presentation evening about the scheme.
  • Any interested childminders were asked to fill out an application form.
  • Interviews were held.
  • Childminders who showed they had the experience, professionalism and appropriate attitude were then invited to join the scheme.

Training

All of the successful applicants then attended an induction training session. This induction is a six-hour course and includes training on all aspects including: Ofsted registration process, confidentiality, signposting, policies, helping with marketing, demonstrating good practice, completing contracts, filling out of monitoring forms, etc.

 It is important that the support childminders are able to give appropriate advice and support. Through training they are encouraged to share their own good practice, whilst recognising that their role is to support, not tell a new childminder how to run their business. There are lots of different ways to run a successful childminding business and to provide good quality childcare and our support childminders recognise this.

Support childminders have to attend a minimum of three additional relevant training courses a year. These courses are offered to them through the scheme and include training on child protection, policy writing, changes in Ofsted inspections, diversity and equal opportunities, counselling and giving advice, etc.

Recruitment

Following the initial recruitment campaign, recruitment has continued by targeting areas where support is needed. This has been done by flyers, brochures, visiting toddler groups, childminding groups, drop-in sessions, etc. We now have 11 support childminders in post. They are supporting 90 newly registered and registering childminders between them at the moment.

Rewards

The support childminders have received recognition in the form of a scheme membership certificate and will be receiving a bursary of £500 in recognition of their support given over the year.

Allocations

New and registering childminders are allocated to support childminders as they begin their childminding course (ICP). They are allocated according to the area they live in, so that they live near to their support childminder. Each support childminder can support up to 10 new childminders.

Support and monitoring

Support childminders contact their supported childminders at least once a month. They report the contact on their monitoring forms and send me a monthly summary. I will be meeting with the support childminders quarterly to monitor the scheme and their progress. The new childminders will also be contacted for their comments on the success of the scheme.

Social gatherings

On 13 July we held an official launch of the scheme at the Holiday Inn in central Milton Keynes. This was an excellent opportunity for support and supported childminders to meet. We are also planning an end-of-year anniversary celebration of the scheme.

Support childminders and the childminders they are supporting often get together at childminding groups and toddler groups. This is a good chance to share ideas and an excellent opportunity for the children to socialise. It is also a very good way of helping to fill their vacancies as they can pass enquiries on to each other.  

Feedback

The scheme is still very new in Milton Keynes, but so far the feedback has been very good. The support childminders are pleased that their experience is helping new childminders and that the professionalism of childminders is being recognised. New childminders are benefiting by having continued support in all aspects of childminding. The support is helping to raise their confidence and self esteem. Starting a career in childminding can seem a little daunting and confusing at times and having individual support is a real help.

The scheme is helping meet the government’s agenda to be able to offer good quality affordable childcare to all.

Aims of the Support Childminder scheme

  • To support potential childminders with regular contact starting from when they have attended a briefing session.
  • To identify and assist with any problems during the registration process.
  • To link experienced, professional childminders with new childminders in order to build self-confidence.
  • To increase the quality of childcare being offered to parents and their children.
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