A new campaign has begun to harmonise the funding rules for childminders who look after related children. Presently, parents may receive Tax Free Childcare and tax credits to assist with childcare costs, even if their child is related to their childminder, provided they are not being looked after in their own home. However, this is not the case for 30 Hours, where grandchildren, nieces and nephews are excluded from the entitlement.
In Wales a similar harmonisation has been agreed to, as a matter of common sense, but in England it might take some time before the government can be convinced. 30 Hours is deliberately limited in its application to try to keep costs low; when it was originally announced some reports suggested the government was hoping it would only cost £300 million, as opposed to the £1 billion and more it costs in reality. Given that, according to campaign leaders PACEY, 38% of current childminders already are for a related child, the cost of the rule change could be large. However, that assumes that the children do not currently receive funded hours. In fact they do; the related childminders lose their custom to others.
The campaign is only to harmonise the rules, but there could be a case for extending them further, even encompassing the childminder’s own children. According to Ofsted’s latest statistics, the number of childminders in England has fallen by around a quarter since 2012, dropping from around 60,000 to just over 40,000. One traditional route into childminding has always been that it can provide an opportunity to work while simultaneously looking after your own children, cutting down on childcare costs. However with the access to funded childcare becoming easier, and with the average earnings of childminding remaining low, this route of entry is now less attractive. Changing the rules, even with a caveat that at least one unrelated child must be care for simultaneously, could provide a boost to recruitment.
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