Housing associations, social landlords, and developers in England are being urged to allow childminders to work in their rented properties, to help encourage entry into the profession and increase availability of childcare for parents.
Children and Families Minister Claire Coutinho says prospective childminders too often face restrictive clauses in contracts which stop them from working in their homes. This, she says, will help tackle the unfair barriers to those who rent or have leasehold properties, compared with those who own their own home.
“We have outstanding, high quality childminders, offering flexible and accessible childcare in a home-like environment,” said Children, Families and Wellbeing Minister Claire Coutinho, adding:
“Too often prospective childminders are having the door slammed in their faces because they face a blanket ban on working from home.
However, parents tell us time and again how much they value the flexibility and quality that childminders bring so we are making sure that we are supporting the workforce to deliver what parents need.”
Childminders can currently face challenging registration processes, and according to data collected by Tiney, a childminder agency, one in eight prospective childminders who did not complete the registration process were unable to do so because they could not secure permission to work from their home.
What’s more, childminders who are living in leasehold properties are sometimes being blocked by restrictive covenants which say that the properties cannot be used for business purposes. Some who are living in rented accommodation have found that their tenancy agreements prevent them from registering their business or that their landlords’ mortgage agreements include restrictions from the lender.
Within the letter to landlords, Minister Coutinho has urged them to engage with prospective childminders to unblock these issues wherever possible, for the good of local communities.
This week also saw the government announce new measures to support and inspire more people into the childminding sector. The investment is expected to take government spending on childcare to over £8bn in total by 2027-28.
Amendments to the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill (LURB) have also been tabled meaning that childminders can work together in groups of up to four childminders in total, and spend more time working outside of their own homes such as in a community centre or village hall.
The government will also consult on reducing registration times to around 10 weeks, make sure childminders are paid monthly by local authorities, and soon launch the childminder start-up grant, worth up to £1,200 for all childminders who have joined the profession since the Spring Budget.
The background to this is that the number of childminders operating in England has more than halved over the past 10 years. The government said it is “determined to reverse that trend”.
Parents have also been urged to check they are claiming the free childcare hours they are already entitled to, with the data showing around one in 20 children nationally may be missing out.