By Abigail Plested of Rosebud Nanny Agency, Hertfordshire
Childcare in the UK is soon to hit crisis point. With the introduction of the 30 hours funding for children over the age of 3, we’ve created a huge issue – the idea in principle is brilliant for working parents, but nurseries and childminding settings are closing at an alarming rate across the country. The government funding works by the government paying a childcare setting X amount per hour, per child. But the hourly figure is less than the setting would charge ordinarily. So, for a setting with 20 children, taking £1.50 less per hour (e.g.) per child means they lose £30 per hour. Every hour, every day. They cannot afford this drop and are closing.
For a lot of families, having a nanny used to be a cost-effective solution – especially if you have more than 1 child. But with the introduction of the 30 free hours (which cannot be used on nannies, because it’s an unregulated industry) nannying is now a far more expensive option. So, more families are turning to childminders and nurseries, with less of these available…
It’s a vicious cycle. So what’s the solution?
As a Nanny recruiter, my focus is on finding a way to make hiring a nanny more affordable. The best way to do this is to regulate the nannying industry. At present, families can use childcare vouchers or the tax-free childcare system to pay part of their nanny’s salary. This helps, but not half as much as it would if you could utilise the 30 hours funding.
To make this viable for employer and employee, a nanny would have to charge the rest of her hourly rate as a ‘top up’ as the government contribution would pay far less than minimum wage. BUT if the government paid (e.g.) £4 per hour towards a nanny, and the family paid the rest of her rate (in Hertfordshire, the average is £12 per hour so a family would pay the remaining £8) that would make hiring a nanny MUCH more affordable.
So how do we regulate the Nannying Industry?
There is a massive campaign in progress – the Regulation Matters Campaign. ‘The Campaign calls for registration of all childcarers in the UK, so that nannies and other home childcarers are brought under the same regulatory umbrella & held to the registration standards currently required of childminders in the childcare industry.’
With a lot of big names working on the campaign – BAPN (the association for Professional Nannies), ANA (the association of Nanny Agencies) Norland and Chiltern Colleges, PACEY (Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years) REC (Recruitment and Employment Confederation) and various nanny agencies (Rosebud Nanny Agency included) and nanny payroll companies, we have made huge progress. But the government doesn’t understand the importance of regulating nannies so its not a priority for them. We need to make them see the childcare crisis looming.
Nurseries, schools and childminders HAVE to be registered with Ofsted – sadly, at present nannies can only register with the voluntary side of the Ofsted register (not the compulsory side like other forms of childcare). Registration for nannies is optional – a nanny would only register to enable their employers to use the tax-free childcare system / childcare vouchers. It costs £105 a year to be on the voluntary Ofsted register (3x the cost of the compulsory register!) and there is no benefit to the nanny whatsoever – the benefit is solely the financial saving for employers – so a nanny will not be registered unless her employer can utilise the tax savings.
It is also NOT a check on the nanny – a common misconception. Ofsted only inspect 10% of nannies, don’t have to see them at work and the check is more of a ‘tick box’ exercise to ensure their paperwork is up to date. Even more horrifying - if a nanny did a DBS check 10 years ago when she applied to register with Ofsted, Ofsted still see that DBS check as ‘valid’ – I meet many nannies who are surprised when I tell them they need a new DBS check, as ‘Ofsted said this one is OK!’
The Regulation Matters Campaign calls for Ofsted to scrap the Voluntary register and have nannies on the compulsory register, along with all other types of childcare.
Other reasons to regulate the nanny industry
Aside from making hiring a nanny more affordable, regulating the nannies would also make it a much safer industry. A nanny works in your home, has your keys, alarm code, possibly drives your car, and above all, has sole care of your children. It is imperative you have a professional, safe, experienced and respectful Nanny! Whilst nannying remains an unregulated industry, ANYONE can call themselves a Nanny – regardless of their qualifications, experience, undergoing first aid training or having a criminal record check in place (DBS check). This is a terrifying thought! A professional nanny will have either a qualification or years of employment in the field, regularly update her training and first aid, and keep up to date with current legislation, best practice and the EYFS – but how can you be sure you’re taking on a professional nanny?
The best way to ensure you hire a safe, suitable candidate is to use a nanny agency – and more importantly, one that works to a high standard. As Nannying isn’t regulated, neither are agencies – not all nanny agencies meet their candidates, some barely talk to a candidate before passing their CV to a family. This means checks haven’t been done and referees haven’t been contacted. The Regulation Matters Campaign aims to have both nannies and nanny agencies regulated.
When going down the agency route, using a member of the Association of Nanny Agencies (ANA) means you’re using an agency who adheres to high standards – members undergo vetting and are spot checked, keep up to date on industry training and best practice. As a nanny agency, registering with ANA is the only way to show you meet high standards and do all checks possible on your candidates.
Rosebud Nanny Agency is a committee member of ANA - we meet all candidates face to face, checking their documentation, qualifications, ID and proof of address. We also contact a minimum of two previous employers to take references (we do not accept written references but insist on taking our own).
You can follow the Regulation Matters Campaign here – https://www.facebook.com/regulationmc/
You can find a reputable Nanny Agency through the Association of Nanny Agencies, here – https://anauk.org/