Childcare - childminders

Advice on the benefits of choosing a registered childminder to look after your baby, plus information on the likely cost and laws relating to childminding.
Childminding is the most popular form of paid childcare. Anyone working at home looking after a non-related child for more than two hours a day must be registered with Ofsted if they live in England. In Wales they must be registered with the Care Standards Inspectorate for Wales and Scottish childminders must be registered by the Scottish Commission for the Regulation of Care.

By law all childminders must have their homes regularly inspected to make sure they are safe and suitable for young children. Childminders must have first aid training and have a police check carried out, as must everyone else who lives in the home over the age of 16 years. Individual childminders decide their hours and conditions: you need to find one who can provide the necessary service.

In England and Wales, childminders are not allowed to care for more than three children under 5 and a further three children under 8, including their own. In Scotland childminders may care for no more than six children under 12, of these six no more than one must be under one year old, and not more than three who are not yet attending school. Their own children are included in these numbers.

Advantages

A childminder is a professional who will look after your baby in a home environment and should provide stimulating care, as well as opportunities for the one-to-one time which is so important for babies' development.

Disadvantages

Your baby's whole safety and well-being depends on this one person, so you have to be confident that she is trustworthy. A childminder can be ill in which case you would have to find alternative arrangements. Also, many childminders will refuse to look after children who are ill and so you will again have to find a suitable alternative. Find out if you have to pay your childminder during holidays or periods of illness.

Cost

This varies geographically, averaging around £2 an hour, but may be well over £4 in London and the South.

Advice
  • Discuss everything openly, ensure you do not gloss over what is important to you.
  • It is a good sign if the childminder belongs to the National Child Minding Association, which publishes Quality Standards for its members. The NCMA also publishes a free informative leaflet.


  • Have a written contract (she will probably offer you one).
  • Ask about extra costs - nappies, milk, outings etc.
  • Is her home child-orientated? Does she have suitable toys?
  • Follow your instinct. Watch the childminder react with your baby and if you have any doubts, say no.

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