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Legally, a childminder is someone who works with children for more than two hours a day in their own home for money.
Unlike babysitters, childminders have to go through some childcare-related courses in order to qualify and mainly provide childcare in their own home, which is subject to inspection.
In England, childminders are registered with Ofsted; in Wales childminders are registered with Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW); in Scotland childminders are registered with the Care Inspectorate. This ensures they keep up to date with skills and the knowledge needed to do their job.
They are responsible for health and safety of children, learning, nutrition, safeguarding, training, communication with parents and paperwork.
In England registered childminders can look after up to six children up to the age of eight. Of these, as many as three can be under fives and a single childminder can only have one child under one year old. This ratio includes the childminder’s own children if they are under age eight.
In Wales, childminders may care for no more than 10 children under 12. Of those 10 children, no more than six may be under eight years of age; no more than three children may be under the age of five; and normally no more than two children may be under 18 months of age, although exceptions can be made for siblings.
Childminders in Scotland can care for up to six children at any one time, three of whom can be pre-schoolers and of those three only one can be under one year old. Numbers are inclusive of childminders own children.
In Northern Ireland, a childminder can care for up to six children under 12, including their own. Only three of these may be aged under five and usually only one child below one year old.
According to the Money Advice Service, the average cost of childminders in the UK is £107.41 per week for 25 hours a week for children under two. This compares to £122.46 per week for a nursery. Average full-time childminding costs are £232.84 per week.
It’s a good idea to have a clear contract which spells out issues such as holiday, deposits, notice periods, policies and sickness [the childminder’s or your child’s]. You should agree with your childminder how you plan to arrange your holidays at the beginning of the arrangement.
Your childminder may have a set period of holiday which they make parents aware of at the start of each year. You also need to check if you still have to pay full or part fees if you go on holiday. When there has been a material breach of contract it is possible for the childminder to end the contract with no notice period if one is not specified.
You can download free specimen contracts here.