Childminders are self-employed people who look after children in their own home for payment, for more than 2 hours per week. They must be registered with a government regulating body - in Scotland this is the Care Commission and in England OFSTED. To become registered they must pass a police check and have their home inspected to make sure it is a safe and healthy environment for children. A childminder is also checked for references, training, and health, and each year he or she has to undergo an inspection of the home or place where children are looked after. The checks are rigorous and designed to ensure the highest standards of childcare.
All childminders in England and Wales, and soon Scotland and Northern Ireland, are required to complete basic childcare and first aid training. Many also have other childcare qualifications and may have other childcare experience. There are many opportunities for childminders to take up extra training to further their childcare knowledge!
Childminders care for babies and children up to their teenage years. The ratios are as follows (numbers include the childminder's own children):
- six children under the age of 8 (under 12 in Scotland and Northern Ireland)
- of those six no more than three should be under the age of 5
- of those three, no more than one should be under the age of 1 (exceptions are made for siblings)
Childminders can provide flexible hours and are local so you shouldn't need to travel far. They provide a warm family atmosphere in which to care for your children. They should provide varied play and creative opportunities, taking your child on trips and visits whenever possible.
Your childminder's toys and books should promote a multicultural and multi-abled society. He/she may also be able to provide after school/nursery care, picking your child up from school. This is why when you apply for lists of childminders you are provided with those who live locally to you. You can also find this information on the ChildcareLink (click on the link below 'Finding Childminders').
Fees vary from area to area:
- In England and Wales, an average of around £2.40 per hour, up to £6 per hour.
- In Scotland, an average of around £2.45 per hour, up to £4 per hour.
- In Northern Ireland, a recommended minimum rate of £1.85 per hour, up to £3.50 per hour.
Tip: Visit the ChildcareLink website for help finding childminders in your area
Lists of childminders can be obtained from your local authority, and these should guarantee that the childminder and her family have undergone rigorous police checks and have no previous convictions for violence. The fire brigade will have visited and checked that fire extinguishers, blankets and smoke alarms are present and working. The home should have been thoroughly checked for safety and be large enough to accommodate the number of children the childminder is allowed to care for. Registered childminders are bound by strict regulations but it is still up to you to judge their suitability when you visit. Trust your instincts!