Ed’s Column in the Morley Observer & Advertiser

It was crawling room only at a packed Morley South Children’s Centre on Friday. I joined Jane and her team at the centre beside Seven Hills Primary to meet dozens of local childminders, parents and representatives from the National Childminders Association to hear their views on the big issues of the day. Between finger painting and rounds of ‘Wind the Bobbin Up’, we discussed early years education, access to training and changes to tax credit rules.

There are hundreds of childminders in the Morley area who between them care for thousands of little Morleians. Some like Linda who I met on Friday have been childminding for years and now provide support to less experienced childminders. Others are parents of young children themselves and find childminding a great way to look after their own children and earn money too – helping other local mums to balance work and family. All those I met on Friday told me how much they love what they do, stressing how great it is to have a job where no two days are the same. But they said it can be a lonely job too, making local children’s centres, like our fantastic one by Seven Hills Primary, an essential lifeline. Childminders meet up at the Morley South Children’s Centre on Mondays to get advice and support. And of course the great facilities keep the kids occupied for a few hours too. 

The childminding profession has changed a lot. Most childminders now hold professional childcare qualifications and are inspected just like nurseries and schools. They also follow official guidance on child development in early years. The National Childminders Association (0845 880 0044) is there to provide advice and support for childminders on everything, from getting set up in the first place, to going through an Ofsted inspection.

But as any family with small children can tell you, times are hard at the moment. New rules for working tax credits are hitting childminders hard, along with thousands of other local families. Those I met on Friday were worried about new rules on working tax credits which will impact many of them directly as well as many of the parents whose children they care for. Changes brought in by the Government will mean that from this April, rather than having to work 16 hours a week to qualify for working tax credits, a couple will have to work at least 24 hours; a big increase.  Parents have told me they just can’t find the extra hours from their employer. For childminders the impact is parents stopping work altogether or asking family members to help out instead of paying for childcare.

That’s not right. Tax credits were introduced to make it easier for parents to work. These new changes are doing the opposite.

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Posted February 15th, 2012 by Ed's team