Suffolk/Hadleigh: Childminders seek support from MP Tim Yeo amid safety fears over proposed deregulation

SUFFOLK childminders are hoping to gain the support of a county MP as they fight planned changes to the way they are registered and inspected.

Last month, the Government launched a commission into the affordability and availability of childcare – a joint initiative between the Department for Education and the Department for Work and Pensions – which will also assess how regulation of the sector, including childminding, can be simplified.

But members of Hadleigh Childminding Group have told South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo they are concerned new proposals being examined by the commission – and considered by the Government – could be detrimental to the children in their care.

According to a survey by the National Childminding Association, 94% of respondents would like to keep current regulations in place rather than see the profession deregulated under the new scheme.

Melanie Atkinson, chair of the Hadleigh Childminding Group, said: “When Mr Yeo visited us, we outlined to him that currently childminders are registered and inspected individually by Ofsted within the framework of the [Department for Education’s] Early Years Foundation Stage. Not only does this method work, it affirms our status as professionals within this field and, crucially, it provides parents with the reassurance and peace of mind that their children are being cared for in a safe and properly-regulated environment.”

She added: “Together with the National Childminding Association, our group is committed to retaining the current model and we trust that our MP, having heard our concerns, will bring our comments to the fore when any final decisions are made.”

Mr Yeo said he was “open-minded” about the proposals and although he understood the concerns of the childminders, he had not yet heard from any parents who were worried about the changes. He said: “I recognise the value of the service that childminders provide to working families.

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“To be able to use a childminder enables one or both parents to go out to work which is extremely important.

“However, it is not yet clear to me that the changes proposed would be of disadvantage to the people who are using the service.

“I am not ruling anything out at this stage though, and I would like to hear from any parents who might have concerns before I decide how to progress with this issue in Parliament,” Mr Yeo added.

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