Features

Childminding initiative: room to breathe

20 March 2020

Health visitor Jo-Anne Linnane encourages local parents to take up the two-year-old childcare offer, which provides 570 hours of free childminding a year.

I have worked for the NHS for 31 years and been a health visitor since 2006. I joined the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) Together for Twos steering group in Greenwich to help increase take-up of the two-year-old childcare offer in England, which provides funding for 570 hours a year. This funding can make a huge difference to the lives of children and families.

This project is backed by the Department for Education to grow the number of disadvantaged families taking up the two-year-old offer with childminders. The project partners the Greenwich early years and childcare team with HVs and Jobcentre Plus staff, who have direct contact with families and can help us understand how to talk to parents about childcare.

The two-year-old funding supports building community capacity and social mobility. It’s important for HVs to be on board as we see all the new births and have a really good understanding of the communities we work in. We witness first-hand the social isolation, so anything we can do to even out health inequalities is important and the project is essential for that.

How does it help families?

Some two-year-olds (see Who is entitled?, below) are entitled to a funded place in childcare – a childminder, nursery or pre-school. Childcare providers that offer funded places are all judged ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted.

Some families have very limited support available from friends or extended family. This can happen for all sorts of reasons – for example, they may have just arrived in the country and speak a language other than English. I have seen isolated families join a childcare setting and have their social support network extended by making friends with other parents. This helps the parents as well as the children, who get more play opportunities and the chance to meet other children.

The funding pays for up to 15 hours a week of childcare during term-time or 570 hours a year. It’s life-changing for the parents to get some space to take a bit of time to look at their CV, do a few hours of work, attend appointments or just take some time for themselves.

Not only do they get time each week, but parents also benefit from watching early years workers and childminders modelling how to play with children or manage behaviour. They can ask questions and discuss their worries with someone they trust and who knows their child. I’ve also seen children’s development progress greatly from being in childcare, whether that’s social and emotional or speech and language.

What can HVs do?

As HVs, we can tell families about the two-year-old funding and the benefits that good-quality early years childcare can bring. In Greenwich, we can then signpost the parents to children’s centres where they will be supported to apply for the funding. If they’d like us to, we can also make an introduction to a particular person there who will help them through the process. We work closely with our children’s centre colleagues. We can ask them to call the parent to explain a bit more about the funding. This could make all the difference.

It’s life-changing for parents to get some space to look at their CV, do a few hours of work, attend appointments or just take some time for themselves

Exploding the childminder myths

I see this as an important part of our role because parents might not have had a chance to hear about the funding otherwise. Also, when talking to families, we can correct misconceptions about the funding such as the worry that it will get taken away if parents get a job. It’s about giving them up-to-date information and signposting them towards further support. Each family will make a different choice about childcare, but they can’t make that choice without all of the information available.

We also work towards dispelling the myths about childminders. 

We explain that the childminders and nurseries where you can access the funding for two-year-olds are all rated by Ofsted as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’. One type of childcare isn’t better than another; each one will suit each child differently. Some two-year-olds will benefit from being in a nurturing, home environment with a childminder, with fewer children. It very much depends on the individual child.


Who is entitled?

When a child reaches the age of two, they may be eligible for 15 hours of funded early education for 38 weeks of the year if they claim government support (for example, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance or child tax/working tax credits with an income not exceeding £16,190):

A child is also eligible if:

  • They are looked after by the local authority
  • They have a current statement of special educational needs or an education, health and care plan
  • They receive a disability living allowance.
     
  • To find out more about Together for Twos and childminders, and the two-year-old offer, go to pacey.org.uk

Not just carers 

Some parents might benefit more from the flexibility that childminders can provide. It could be condensed hours for working patterns, or one-off availability so that the parent can attend a hospital appointment. It’s important to raise the profile of childminders so that parents see them as a viable alternative choice for early years education, and that that they are seen as educators as well as carers. It’s only an informed choice for parents if childminders have a profile and they know enough about childminders.

A parent who is struggling with trusting someone to take care of their child might find it easier to build up a one-to-one relationship with a childminder than with a nursery where there are multiple staff members. This consistent relationship will help vulnerable families who deal with day-to-day challenges. For example, parents may be very young themselves and can benefit from the older, more experienced childminder’s support. Ultimately, it’s a choice for each eligible family.

How do I pass the message on to my colleagues?

To get more HVs on board and keen to promote the two-year-old funding, I invited PACEY project childminding development worker Sally Heron to talk to our team. Local childminders also attended to explain registration, Ofsted accreditation and more about their day-to-day role. It was great to hear the enthusiasm and details first-hand.

I’ve really enjoyed being part of the steering group. I think the work PACEY has done has raised the profile of childminders within the service and is really worthwhile. What we don’t want is children on nursery waiting lists while there are childminders available. We need to keep the message out there that they are doing a valuable job for the family and community.    

Jo-Anne Linnane is professional development lead, health visiting, Greenwich 0 to 19 service, Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust.


Together for Twos

Together for Twos is a Department for Education grant-funded project in England. The project provides national and direct local interventions to:

  • Grow the number of disadvantaged families taking up the two-year-old offer with childminders. Support health visitors and Jobcentre Plus staff to support families’ understanding of the benefits of both using the entitlement and choosing a childminder.  
  • Where appropriate, grow the number of childminders offering the entitlement. Use targeted social media campaigns and develop online resources to support the delivery of early years entitlement Support Jobcentre Plus with information about how to become a childminder or childminding assistant.
  • Increase the number of delivery partnerships between schools, nurseries and childminders in target areas. This can be done by promoting benefits and existing good practice. 

References

Pacey. (2019) Together for Twos - supporting 2-year-olds. See: https://www.pacey.org.uk/news-and-views/news/archive/2019-news/february-2019/together-for-twos/ (accessed 9 March 2020).

 

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