Childminders seek status

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The Independent Online
CHILDMINDERS are calling on the Government to introduce national training and qualifications as part of the "national childcare strategy".

The National Childminders Association (NCA) will lobby the Government to bring in formal training which it says will raise the status of childminders who are frequently undervalued in their work.

"Far too often this is the sort of job people think they can do in between the housework," says Gill Haynes, chief executive of the NCA which has 50,000 members. "It is not. Looking after children is a demanding and skilled job. There is the underlying assumption that anyone who provides childcare is not doing a formal job and so doesn't need training."

At present, childminders are some of the worst-paid workers in Britain, with an average wage of pounds 2 an hour.

"We want to give business support to what is a self-employed person running a small business from their home," said Ms Haynes. "Childminders are among the worst-paid workers in the world. Yet childminders offer care that is individual because they only look after a small number of children. They often offer care that is continuous as well, looking after children before they are old enough to go to school and then looking after them before and after school.

"Our motivation is to raise the status of childminding as a major provider of childcare. The Government must have training and qualifications linked into national standards."

The NCA has helped set up a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) in early years childcare. "The benefit to parents is that childcare becomes like any other profession with an NVQ assessment in competence, a measure which parents can understand," Ms Haynes said.

Training would include child development and learning opportunities in the home. The NCA has also set up a number of childminding networks with local authorities which not only offer quality assurance - "a sort of kitemark for carers" - but also back-up, for example if the childminders' own children are ill.