What is a childminder?
Childminders can care for up to six children under 12, including their own. Only three of these may be under five and usually only one under the age of one. There are some exceptions - for example, twins.
Annual inspections are carried out by Social Services on both the home and the childminder to assure the standard of care provided to children. In addition, the police check all those aged over 10 who live in the childminder's home.
Many childminders are members of Northern Ireland Childminding Association (NICMA) and have access to guidance and training from this organisation.
The advantages of using a registered childminder are that they:
- are registered and inspected annually by social services
- have their own public liability insurance
- can be flexible about the hours that they work
- can provide care, fun and learning in a home setting
- can care for children of different ages together
- are ideal for babies and under twos, who need to develop a close relationship with an adult through one to one care
- can develop a close relationship with families as children grow up
- often offer a school pick-up-service
- can be experienced mothers
- are eligible for the childcare element of the Working Tax Credit
Things to check with childminders:
- that they are registered with the Early Years Team in your local Health and Social Care Trust and have insurance. Family Support NI is the public record of all registered and approved childcare providers in Northern Ireland.
- that their home is safe with plenty of play and learning opportunity
- that if your child will be travelling by car, the childminder has properly-fitted car seats
- that the agreed contract covers hours, pay, illness, holidays
Questions to ask childminders:
- can they give you the name and telephone number of other parents they provide a service for so you can follow up their references?
- how long have they been childminding and how long will they continue?
- what are the ages of the children they look after?
- what is the routine? How often do they take the children out and where? What activities will they do with your child?
- what kind of food do they provide and is it included in the fee?
- what other adults will be in the house?
- who would the childminder call on in an emergency?
- what do they do about things like sleep, potty-training and setting boundaries on behaviour? Discuss and agree the approach for your child
- how does the childminder fit in household chores? Do they shop or take other children to school while your child is in their care?
- what are the costs, hours, holiday pay and other conditions?
- ask the childminder or your local Early Years Team to see the last inspection report
Family Support NI
Family Support NI holds the public register of all registered and approved childcare providers in Northern Ireland. You can use their website to search for registered and approved childcare providers in your area.
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 negotiated with the parents. NICMA can advise on recommended rates. Discuss hours, holiday pay and other terms and conditions with the childminder.
There are a range of financial benefits and support available to parents assist with the cost of childcare.