Registered childminders are self-employed carers who look after children in their own homes. They must be registered with the local Health and Social Care Trust if they're paid to look after children they aren't closely related to for more than two hours in the day.
What a childminder does
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. There are some exceptions, for example, twins.
Every year the local Health and Social Care Trust inspects the childminder and their home to assure the standard of care the childminder gives children. The police check everyone aged over 10 living in the childminder's home.
Many childminders are members of Northern Ireland Childminding Association (NICMA). They can get guidance and training from NICMA.
Using a registered childminder
The advantages in using a registered childminder are:
- they're inspected annually by the local Health and Social Care Trust
- they have their own public liability insurance
- they can be flexible about their working hours
- they can provide care, fun and learning in a home setting
- they can care for children of different ages together
- they're suitable for babies and children under two, who need to develop a close relationship with an adult through one to one care
- they can develop a close relationship with families as children grow up
- they can offer a school pick-up-service
- they're often experienced mothers
- they're eligible for the childcare element of Working Tax Credit
Information to check about a childminder
Before you employ a childminder, you should check:
- they're registered with the Early Years Team in the local Health and Social Care Trust and have insurance
- their home is safe with plenty of play and learning opportunity
- the childminder has properly-fitted car seats in case your child will be in their car
- the agreed contract covers hours, pay, illness and holidays
Asking a childminder about childcare
To find out about the childminder's standard of childcare, you should ask them:
- to give you contact information for parents of other children they look after so you can follow up their references
- how long they've been childminding and how long they'll continue
- ages of the children they look after
- their routine for looking after children and activities they'll do with your child
- about food they provide and if this is included in their fee
- if other adults will also be in the house
- who the childminder would call in an emergency
- about sleep, potty-training and setting boundaries on behaviour, it's important to agree the approach for your child
- how the childminder fits in household work when they're looking after your child, including shopping or taking other children to school
- the costs, hours, holiday pay and other conditions
- for their last inspection report
You can also ask the local Early Years Team for the last inspection report.
Family Support NI
Family Support NI holds the public register of all registered and approved childcare providers in Northern Ireland. To search for registered and approved childcare providers in your area, go to:
Childcare partnerships are operated by the HSC Board to offer information and support to childcare providers, parents and employers.
NICMA is a charity and membership organisation which works to support childminders, parents and children by the provision of quality childcare and education in registered home based settings.
NICMA run a free information and vacancy service for information on NICMA registered childminders.
Childminders are usually paid on an hourly basis, at a rate agreed with the parents. NICMA can advise on recommended rates. You should discuss hours, holiday pay and other terms and conditions with the childminder.
Help to pay for childcare
There are different financial benefits and support available to help parents pay for childcare.
If you're a working parent with children under 12 (or under 17 for children with disabilities), you can open an online account to pay for registered childcare. For every £8.00 you put in the account, the government adds £2.00. You can get up to £2,000 for one child. If your child has a disability, you can get up to £4,000 for one child.