Childminding workforce trends qualitative research report

This study was commissioned by the Scottish Government to explore the range of factors that may be contributing to the decline in the Scottish childminder workforce in order to identify ways to better recruit, support and retain them.

4. Day-to-day issues and challenges in childminding

This chapter describes the key day-to-day issues and challenges associated with childminding, from the perspectives of current, former and prospective childminders. As noted in Chapter 1, participants across the four different sample groups generally raised similar key issues. These were also the main issues that contributed to some childminders considering or deciding to leave the profession, and that discouraged others from registering as a childminder in the first place. Many of these issues are interlinked and are also discussed in the existing literature.

Before considering the key challenges, however, the chapter beings with a brief discussion of the factors that motivate people to remain in childminding, and which contribute to job satisfaction for childminders.

Reasons for remaining in childminding

The existing literature indicates that many of the factors that motivate people to become a childminder in the first place (discussed in the previous chapter) are also central to maintaining job satisfaction and motivating people to stay in the profession. A 2019 survey found that, for childminders in Scotland, a desire to make a difference was the main reason for staying in the workforce (61%), followed by job satisfaction and pride (51%) and flexibility (37%).[51] This aligns with the SCMA's 2020 survey, which found that the most highly valued aspects of being a childminder were 'seeing children develop in response to my care', and 'the ability to combine caring for my family with caring for other children'.[52]

Participants interviewed for this report also cited job flexibility and seeing children develop as key positive aspects of childminding. New childminders who took part in a focus group identified "family" and "rewarding" as words that summarised their experience of childminding so far:

"The kids I take on I say that they are going to be part of my family, and it means I have so much better quality of time with my family as well."

"I think coming from like bigger settings, the smaller setting has made it so much more rewarding for me, seeing kids come on and seeing the difference I have made in small amounts of time" (Group 2, new childminders)

New childminders also described enjoying making decisions on how to spend their time with the children in their care without direction from a line manager. In addition, the job had unexpected health benefits for one participant:

"I worked in a restaurant with no windows. Now I'm outside so much, even when it is raining, we are still outside. My step count is really high, and I feel like a lot healthier, I think that is a benefit that I didn't really realise." (Group 2, new childminders)

New childminders were asked how long they are likely to stay in childminding. For some participants, their intentions were primarily shaped by family circumstances and the age of their own children, with childminding only viewed as a convenient job option until their own children no longer require full-time childcare. Others saw it as a longer-term, family-friendly career option. However, it was also commented that there were many other more flexible job options available now, which might lead some to review their commitment to childminding:

"I am actually keeping an eye out now because there is so much more flexible working coming up and working from home options. If I could find something else that I could work from home and have that flexibility I would be quite happy to give up the childminding" (Interviewee ES2/05, new childminder)

These views reflect Bury et al's (2020) description of three types of career journey within the early years workforce. This recognises that, for some, working in the early years is a practical decision, shaped by convenience, while others have or develop a strong interest in the early years field[53]:

  • Career professionals who "entered and remained in the sector because of an inherent interest in early years".
  • Inspired professionals who "entered the sector because it was convenient but remained because they had developed a passion for early years".
  • Pragmatic professionals who "entered and remained in the sector out of convenience."

These three segments were reflected in recent research for the Scottish Government on perceptions of the impact of childminding on children and families.[54] That study found that, even among childminders who were generally positive about the flexibility of the job and the satisfaction they got from seeing children develop, childminders identified aspects of childminding that could be improved. These key issues and challenges identified by participants are discussed in the remainder of this chapter and in chapters 5 and 6.

Many of these issues and challenges touch on childminders' perceptions of the support and guidance available to them. In discussing views of support, it is important to note that these may not always accurately reflect what is currently available – in some cases, there may be a perceived need for more support, when actually what is required is more awareness of the support that already exists. As discussed above, the Care Inspectorate provides guidance and advice around registration, as well as around inspection (discussed further below). The SCMA also provides support in a variety of ways, including: CPD resources; training courses; events; free online resources and a telephone helpline (including legal advice for SCMA members). The support on offer covers: registration and setting up; inspections; skills and knowledge needed to continually improve a service; how to become a Community Childminder; and how to partner with a local authority.

Administrative and regulatory demands

Paperwork and administration

Childminders are required to complete administrative work to support the smooth and safe running of their service and to demonstrate to the Care Inspectorate that certain standards are being met. This type of work cannot generally be completed while providing care for children, so childminders tend to fit this in around the hours their service is open.

The SCMA's 2020 survey found that the level of paperwork and bureaucracy was the most frequently mentioned factor contributing to childminders thinking about leaving the profession, mentioned by 59% of respondents.[55] Evidence from elsewhere confirms that this is not an issue confined to Scotland, or to childminders as distinct from the early years learning and childcare workforce as a whole. However, given the majority of childminders are sole workers, it is an issue that is likely to impact them disproportionately. According to Bury et al's (2020) research on the early years Workforce in England and Wales, some 'inspired professionals' leave because they feel that the amount of paperwork is to the detriment of spending time with the children.[56] The Social Mobility Commission also highlight that long hours can contribute to burnout in the early years workforce, particularly when paperwork is unpaid and outside of working hours.[57]

Participants in this study also expressed their frustration with the amount of time childminders have to spend on paperwork, including both the documentation needed to maintain registration and written communications with parents. Participants mentioned a very wide variety of different documents and tasks they classed under the broad heading of 'paperwork and admin', including:

  • Policies and risk assessments (e.g. fire safety, food safety)[58]
  • Permission documents for photos, sun cream, medicines, outings etc
  • Care/development/personal plans
  • Photo journals, observations, or learning journals for each child
  • Communications with parents, including dealing with enquiries from new parents, questionnaires for parents from the Care Inspectorate, and general updates, including newsletters, parents' nights, and welcome leaflets
  • Other administration connected with registration, inspection, or getting paid – including invoicing, registering for funded hours, forms for caring for children whose parents are at college (to get paid by the college), self-assessment forms, tax returns
  • Generally keeping on top of best practice – reading guidance and emails from childminder representative organisations and the Care Inspectorate, etc.
  • Some of these documents and tasks are required by the Care Inspectorate, either for registration or for inspections[59], while others seen by childminders as important if they wanted to deliver (and be able to evidence) 'best practice' in their service.

While the amount of time participants said they spent on paperwork and administration varied, it could be up to a day per week. Participants noted that paperwork can usually only be completed in the evening, when children have left for the day, which then impacts on the amount of time childminders are able to spend with their own family. A related frustration was that the amount of time spent on paperwork was not viewed as being compensated by adequate pay:

"I spend that much time that I have actually taken a Friday off, as of from now I no longer work on a Friday, and Friday is a day for me to sit and do paperwork" (Group 3, childminders considering leaving the profession)

"You're not making a lot of money, and (you're) still expected to do all this paperwork" (Interviewee ES2/01, new childminder)

Participants understood that some of the paperwork requirements are there for a reason. For example, it was suggested that it is particularly important to have documentation when there are concerns about a child's development. However, reflecting Bury et al (2020), it was felt that the level of paperwork required could get in the way of actually spending time with the children:

"It would be nice just to welcome [children] in and have a lovely day and spend quality time together and do some fun things. But you are constantly worrying about have I done this, have I done my risk assessment, I need to do this observation. Have I done my accounts today? Have I done the register?" (Interviewee ES1/05, participant had been a childminder in England, but decided against returning to this profession after moving to Scotland)

Childminders also felt that many parents are not particularly interested in the documentation they are required to produce for them, which added to the sense that time spent on paperwork was not worthwhile:

"My parents, I would show them the paperwork and they were not interested at all in targets and things, they were like, 'we don't want you to do targets, you're not the school, we want them to have fun.'" (Group 3, childminders considering leaving the profession)

There was a perception that childminders are (unreasonably, from their perspective) expected to complete the same amount of paperwork and maintain the same standards as nurseries, but as lone workers. Similarly, it was commented that childminders were expected to produce documentation for school-age children that was not required of schools:

"In a nutshell, a childminder is expected to do what many staff do together in a nursery or a school, and it is too much." (Interviewee ES1/05, considered becoming a childminder but decided not to)

"Schools don't keep care plans, well not even care plans your Personal Learning Journeys for your schoolies. So, why are we expected to be writing up observations for school children that have been in school learning nine till three (then) come to us to relax?" (Group 4, former childminders)

Paperwork was cited as a key factor influencing both decisions to leave the profession and deterring new people from joining.

"When I hear people are quitting it's because of paperwork and admin" (Interviewee ES2/02, new childminder)

"I'm trying to get somebody in my area to start. Demand is like so high, and nobody wants to do it because of the paperwork. There is loads, loads and loads of people that could do it and would want to do it, but just won't because of the paperwork." (Group 3, childminders considering leaving the profession)

It was felt that the burden of paperwork could be reduced if the Care Inspectorate produced clearer guidelines on the core documentation needed, and what this should look like. There was a sense that some childminders might actually be producing too much documentation, simply because they were not clear what was required and worried about not having enough to demonstrate good practice:

"[Care Inspectorate] sort of say, "oh, you find the method that suits you", because I don't think they want to dictate everything. But in the same way there is not this idiots guide of, if you did this, this and this once a week… for them to be happy with what you're doing." (Group 2, new childminders)

It was also suggested that paperwork could be reduced by streamlining the number of policies required, and that the amount of documentation for school-age children could be reduced.

The case study below illustrates one former childminder's view of paperwork, including a desire for more guidance on exactly what particular documents or records should look like, and a perception that not all the required paperwork seemed necessary to delivering a good service.

Case study – Melanie

Melanie was a childminder for over two years before stopping in 2020. Melanie became a childminder because she and her husband struggled to find childcare where they live that would cover after school hours. She decided to stop childminding because her son didn't like having other children in the house and she had some bad experiences with a parent.

Melanie felt that guidance from the Care Inspectorate is "very limited" for new childminders and that information on the website was not easy to navigate.

"The information and guidance they offer when you start out is very limited. They say you need to provide X, Y and Z but then don't give you guidance on what X, Y and Z looks like, that's not good enough."

Melanie was surprised by the amount of daily paperwork she was doing. She described having had to get parents to sign forms: for permission for her dogs to be in the house; for the application of sun cream; to say no-one under the age of six was allowed to be on the trampoline, and then, when children reached age six, for them to use the trampoline. She would record weekly that she had checked the fire alarm, which she felt was unnecessary to always write down.

Melanie's experiences with children and parents were generally "very positive", but she said her "interaction with the regulatory side was very negative". Melanie felt "a lot of paperwork was for the sake of it" and that there were "hoops you have to jump through for the Care Inspectorate". She would speak to parents at the end of the day and highlight anything important or any concerns about their child's development, so she did not see the value of keeping records for the Care Inspectorate too.


Inspections take place as part of the initial application process. The frequency of subsequent inspections varies and depends on risk assessments made by the Care Inspectorate. Inspectors may turn up unannounced (for existing services), although generally childminders will have some warning because they will be asked to complete a self-evaluation a few weeks before the visit or they will be asked what days their service is running. Childminders are also sent questionnaires for parents and carers to complete about their experience of the service. During an inspection, the spaces used for childminding are viewed and the childminder will be asked about things like their planning, record keeping and policies and procedures. The inspector will provide feedback at the end of the visit, including any recommendations for improvement they plan to make in their report. A draft report is then sent to the childminder. They are required to reply with an action plan if there are any recommendations or requirements specified by the inspector. Final inspection reports are published on the Care Inspectorate website.

According to Campbell-Barr et al (2020), childminders in England described the inspection process as "stressful" and too paper based.[60] Participants in this study described a number of frustrations with the inspection process for childminders in Scotland, relating particularly to timing and the perceived fairness and consistency of grading and feedback.

In terms of timing, it was reported that although inspections (for existing services) are supposed to be unannounced, this was not always the case in practice, which created a perception that some childminders have more time to prepare than others:

"I have been in both positions where I have been unannounced, and (where) I know a morning that someone is going to come … I don't think that is very fair" (Interviewee ES3/01, childminder considering leaving the profession)

"Waiting for the knock on the door" for an unannounced inspection was also described as very stressful:

"(I) understand why they do unannounced inspections but it's your own house … you can't be scared to answer the door in your own house" (Interviewee LM4/03, former childminder)

In addition to perceived inconsistencies in the amount of advanced warning given about inspections, there was a clear perception was that there are inconsistencies in how different inspectors grade childminders. There was a sense that the inspection process overall felt somewhat arbitrary and unfair as a result:

"One inspector might tell you, 'You don't need to do that' and the other one will come out and say, 'yes, you do'. So, there is no, there is no common ground" (Interviewee ES3/01, childminder considering leaving the profession)

"One inspector can come out and look at your things and say, "oh, that's great," then another inspector comes the next day, and they are like, "oh well you're missing this, this and this." There is not consistency of what they need and what is expected like across the board of everybody." (Group 3, childminder considering leaving the profession)

Some participants provided specific examples of inspection decisions or feedback which they found difficult to understand or were contradicted by other authorities:

"The Care Inspectorate person said, 'oh, lock the door and have the keys out of reach'…then when I spoke to the fire marshal or whoever it was over the phone they said you need to be able to get out of your house without unlocking your door, without having to reach for keys." (Group 2, new childminders)

"We as a group of childminders around the area, we used to share policies…then we would all have different Care Inspectorates would come out…I had one, one year that I had to make up a sun cream policy on how to apply sun cream to a child, right, but then nobody else had a sun cream policy on how to apply sun cream to a child. They just had permission to apply sun cream to the child. So, it is that sort of consistency, where do you stand?" (Group 4, former childminders)

A particular view was also expressed that some inspectors had "less than professional attitudes" towards male childminders. In one case it was felt they had been "sexist and inappropriate" in how they spoke to a male childminder.[61]

These issues around the inspection process were reported to have been a significant factor in some former childminders' decision to leave the profession:

"(I) just feel the inspections and what they wanted us to do, what they told me to do was always different to somebody else… the grading, the Care Inspector[ate] and the council was basically was [why] I decided I had enough." (Group 4, former childminders)

As discussed earlier, where people suggest more support or guidance is required, this may not always reflect an absence of such support, but rather a lack of awareness of where or how to access it. However, it is nonetheless important to be aware of where people feel there are gaps, in order that these can be filled either by developing additional resources, or further review or promotion of existing support and guidance. Participants' suggestions for improving the inspection process focused on:

  • Improving the information and guidance provided to childminders in advance, so that they are clearer on what will be assessed and against what precise criteria. A checklist to help prepare for inspection was suggested. It was also commented that it would be helpful to provide examples of what childminders need to do to achieve high grades:

"If we knew beforehand this is what gets you a five, this is what gets you a six, people would work very hard to achieve that but there is no common ground, there is no list of what the things are" (Interviewee ES3/01, childminder considering leaving the profession)

It is worth noting, in this regard, that the Care Inspectorate's current inspection framework does give descriptors of very good practice, but as indicated by the quote above, the childminders we spoke to did not seem to be aware of this resource.

  • Tailoring inspections more to childminding, with a greater recognition that it is a 'home from home' setting and that some requirements that are needed for nurseries might not be appropriate for someone's home

"It's our home – (you) don't want posters up in your home" (Interviewee LM3/02, childminder considering leaving the profession)

  • Offering mentoring (by other childminders) to help people prepare for inspections – a participant who had been a childminder in England described how "invaluable" similar support provided to them had been:

"They would ring you, and they would also come round to the house just before your inspection and say, 'oh, have you thought about this? Have you thought about that? The inspectors will ask you about this'…getting that first-hand experience from somebody that had already been through inspections and daily life as a childminder was just invaluable."

  • Another suggestion was that the inspection process might be improved if inspections were more frequent but less demanding. Less formal visits from inspectors could be seen as more supportive and could address feelings that the Care Inspectorate is not a source of support for childminders.


Pay and income are well documented challenges for recruiting and maintaining a skilled early years workforce. A 2020 review of the early years workforce in the UK found that low pay is a major contributor to staff turnover across the sector.[62] With respect to childminders specifically, Campbell-Barr et al (2020) found that 67% of childminders in England and Wales who were planning to leave strongly agreed that the lack of a secure income contributed to people leaving the profession, while 57% strongly agreed that challenges in being a financially sustainable business were a factor.[63] Similarly, Reid et al (2019) found that more than half (57%) of childminders in Scotland felt people left childminding for a higher salary.[64]

Pay was discussed throughout a 2015 review of Scotland's ELC workforce, with the authors recommending that all practitioners should receive at least the living wage.[65] In 2019, 63% of childminders in England were paid below the living wage, compared with just 25% of private nursery staff.[66] In Scotland in 2018 it was estimated that 80% of ELC practitioners as a whole earn less than the living wage.[67] Through the ELC expansion local authorities are now receiving funding from the Scottish Government to enable them to set sustainable rates for funded ELC providers that enable payment of the Real Living Wage to all workers delivering funded ELC hours. Local authorities currently have some flexibility over this criteria in the National Standard, but once the policy framework is fully in place all providers delivering funded ELC will be expected to pay the Real Living Wage to all staff delivering funded hours. However, as only a minority of childminders currently deliver funded hours[68] this does not directly impact on most childminders.

The Covid-19 pandemic has also had a major financial impact on childminders who were forced to close or vastly reduce their services in March 2020. Many also faced ongoing pressures on income and demand beyond the initial lockdown, as many parents remained on furlough or continued to work from home. As discussed in the Scottish Government's Financial Sustainability Health Check of the Childcare Sector in Scotland, childminders were less likely than other types of ELC service to rate their services as sustainable even pre-pandemic. By May 2021, the proportion of childminders delivering funded ELC expressing significant concerns about sustainability increased from 7% to 20%. Among those not delivering ELC, this rose even more sharply, from 13% to 31%. Experiences of the pandemic are covered in more detail in Section 6.

Childminding was generally viewed as a low- and under-paid paid profession by participants in this study. While it was acknowledged that pay is an issue for the whole ELC sector, childminders were felt to be particularly disadvantaged relative to nursery staff. A comparison was made that if you get a similar hourly rate in a nursery at least you can "walk away at the end of the day", whereas childminders then have to clean up their own home and complete paperwork and administration. The hourly rate charged by childminders was viewed as a misleading measure of the adequacy of their pay, since this does not take into account all the hours that they work outside of contact time with children.

Childminders also commented on the expenses they incurred in running their business in order to meet both regulatory and parental expectations and requirements. One former childminder said they might only make £6,000 'profit' as their take-home 'pay' each year, after all the expenses of running their childminding business were accounted for. The cost of insurance was described as a particularly large outlay and, for this former childminder, a factor in their decision to stop childminding:

"I think [car insurance] went from something like under £300 to over £1,000, You just think, "wow, what on earth do you think I earn here?" There is no way. £1,000 has been, some years, a quarter of net income…It just became financially not viable" (Interviewee ES4/03, Former childminder)

Maternity pay was also cited as an issue for childminders, since they are reliant on state maternity allowance (unlike someone who is employed and may be entitled to employer maternity pay). For one childminder, this had contributed to them deciding to return to work after just six weeks of maternity leave.

The perceived low level of pay was seen as a major factor in explaining the declining numbers of childminders in Scotland, and as something that deterred younger people from entering the profession in particular:

"It doesn't pay well, you don't get a pension and sick pay, you don't get annual leave. Why would you be self-employed? There are a lot more attractive ways of earning money and being a self-employed person" (Interviewee ES3/02, childminder considering leaving the profession)

This quote also reflects related concerns about being self-employed, which were reported to have deterred some prospective childminders from going ahead with registering. One view was that childminding might be more attractive if childminders could be employed directly by the local authority. This would increase financial security (including allaying concerns about tax, pension and benefits) and reduce administration, although it was recognised that there would be questions to address around how this could actually work in practice.

It was suggested that low pay might be a particular barrier for people living in deprived communities and that childminding would not appeal to men where there are perceptions that men should be the 'breadwinner' unless this was addressed:

"It's poorly paid, the hours are long… there is still very much 'man goes out to work and provides' and you couldn't, in our area it would be unbelievably difficult for a man to put a roof over his children's head running a single person's lone trader childminding service, it just doesn't happen." (Interviewee ES3/04, childminder considering leaving the profession)

One view was that reconsidering guidelines about ratios of children to adults for childminders could help improve the profitability and sustainability of childminding businesses – for example, it was suggested that changing the requirement that a childminder looks after no more than three children who are below school age to no more than three under four years-old would enable them to provide care for more nursery-age children, for whom there is more demand for childcare. There was also a perception that, in comparison with England, the rules about how childminders' own children count towards ratios were stricter, and therefore had a greater impact on the number of fee-paying children they could take.

In addition to a desire for improved income in general, it was suggested that childminders should have access to a "proper maternity package", and that there should be more information for prospective childminders on the financial aspects of becoming a childminder (including implications for national insurance contributions).

Training and personal development

There are no specific qualification requirements for becoming a childminder in Scotland. However, if offering funded hours of ELC, childminders are required to achieve benchmark qualifications[69] within the first five years of delivery.

Much of the existing literature comments on barriers to accessing affordable and timely training and continuous professional development (CPD) for both the ELC workforce as a whole, and childminders specifically. For example, Skills Development Scotland (2018) note that it can be difficult for ELC staff to access training because of time, costs and geographic issues in rural areas, and that these challenges may be particularly acute for childminders since they do not have employers to cover the costs and organise staff cover.[70] Campbell-Barr et al (2020) found that half of childminders in England and Wales were 'not so satisfied' (39%) or 'not at all satisfied' (11%) with the CPD opportunities available to them.[71] Business training is identified as a particular gap for childminders in a number of studies.[72] [73]

Pascal et al (2020) recommends urgently reducing barriers to training and CPD for the early years workforce as a whole by increasing options for online and in person training, workforce placements, mentoring, and funding to cover costs.[74] However, other studies have noted that for childminders, a perceived lack of connection between further training and qualifications and improved wages or career progression is likely to remain a barrier. The SCMA's 2020 survey found that 30% of childminders said not wanting to undertake benchmark qualifications needed to deliver funded hours was contributing to their considering leaving childminding.[75] The SCMA has highlighted the link between these findings and an ageing workforce. As discussed in Chapter 2, 24% of childminders are aged 55 or older. For those who have been practicing and gaining good inspection gradings for many years, the time and costs involved in studying for a new qualification may not seem worthwhile at this stage of their careers. A combination of an ageing workforce and new qualification requirements thus create a risk of premature skills loss from the workforce. The debate about the balance of practical experience and formal training is also discussed by O'Regan, Halpenny and Hayes (2019) and Yarrow (2016).

Participants in this study raised many similar points to those reported in the literature. Time and money were both seen as significant barriers to accessing training, particularly for those who had gone into childminding to enable them to spend more time with their own family, who were deterred by the prospect of training outside of working hours:

"In a normal job, if you were doing training, you would be paid for your training… If it was an online training I wouldn't be as fussed about it but if I was actually having to travel and be away from my child, it kind of defeats the purpose of doing a job to be near your child." (Group 1, people who considered becoming a childminder but decided not to)

Participants also felt it was not always straightforward to identify which courses are officially recognised (for inspection purposes), or how much courses cost:

"I had been aiming to do my own online courses and then you think, is it official? Does it count? Is it the right information? Is this even what I'm supposed to be looking at?" (Group 3, childminders who are considering leaving the profession)

"It's been very difficult to find out the information to get on to a course and how it is funded… nobody is going to tell you how much you have to pay until you have actually signed up and stuff."(Group 2, new childminders)

Comments from former childminders provide support for the view above, that requiring new qualifications may be particularly off-putting for those in the later stages of their career:

"I didn't have the SVQ and when they said you had to do it within five years, I was reluctant to do it, because I had done an NVQ before I started childminding in child behaviour and health, I think it was called, and because I wasn't sure how long I would be childminding for, I was reluctant to agree to do that." (Group 4, former childminder)

Business advice and training was seen as something that new childminders, in particular, would find helpful. Although participants did highlight some existing sources of business advice or training (for example, Business Gateway), new childminders nonetheless described how they had initially struggled with knowing how to talk to parents about bookings and fees and suggested that specific childminding business support would be helpful:

"When I started actually some parents were just taking a little bit of advantage with the payments…you don't really know until you start how to like deal with…but then you learn…(I) had no training to talk to parents." (ES2/03, new childminder)

Providing clear training opportunities was also seen as an important in encouraging more people (particularly young people) to consider a career in childminding. It was suggested that college courses focussing on setting up a business, pathways from school where you could progress from being an assistant to a childminder, foundation apprenticeships, and work placements in high school might all help in this regard. It should be noted, however, that there was also a view that qualifications are not always necessary to be a good childminder.

Participants also expressed some frustration with a perceived lack of opportunities for career progression within childminding. It was recognised that not all childminders want to 'move up' in their role. However, there was nonetheless a view that creating and publicising more opportunities to progress and grow as a professional might help to encourage people to stay in the childminding workforce. It was suggested this might include having the option to become a community childminder[76], or supporting better links between childminders and larger ELC settings delivering funded hours, so that childminders can gain experience and knowledge from these links:

"There isn't really any progression really, because I'm doing this job to tide me over until I retire, just ticking for the next 13, 14 years…it isn't really a career job is it, it is just a job." (Group 4, former childminder)

"Having an easy route to qualifications and training that you actually see some progress, that you can maybe have an ongoing ladder that you're climbing kind of thing, that might be an incentive to feel that you are still growing as a professional." (Interviewee ES2/04, new childminder)

"I would quite like the challenge of being a community childminder and…giving the support to those families who maybe need the support more, because I get a lot of families who really don't need support, they just need a babysitter really, and it can be a bit unfulfilling that way I suppose" (Interviewee ES2/05, new childminder)


Childminders are usually lone workers: in 2020, while there were 4,395 registered childminders in Scotland it was estimated that there were just 540 childminding assistants.[77] Campbell-Barr et al (2020) found that 45% strongly agreed that a lack of advice and support contributed to people leaving the profession.[78] Childminders interviewed in England in 2014 said that their access to support and guidance had been reduced due to cuts to local services.[79] This issue is also highlighted by O'Regan et al (2019), who found that childminders in Ireland were looking for local support workers to help with establishing and running their service and with training. There were also calls for peer support from other childminders.[80] Skipp and Hopwood (2017) suggest that a lack of formal information sharing networks for childminders had contributed to potential misconceptions about funded hours in England.[81]

Childminders interviewed for this study described the sense of isolation sometimes created by working alone, without other adult company, as a negative aspect of the job. A lack of peer support was seen as adding to the stress of dealing with potentially challenging situations in childminding, such as "personality clashes with parents" or supporting children with additional support needs. Childminders also missed the social aspects of working in a team – "that banter when you have a workplace".

Where childminders had been able to access more support – for example, via a childminding support worker – this had a substantial positive impact, both on how well informed they felt about what was expected of them in terms of training, qualifications and inspection, and on their mental wellbeing and confidence. The benefits of receiving additional support are highlighted in the case study below.[82]

Case study – Sophie

Sophie is a new childminder. She began childminding in 2019. She had experience working with children before becoming a childminder and started looking into it after experiencing her own childcare issues.

Sophie lives in an area where she has access to a Childminding Development Officer recently employed by the local authority. The CDO has been a real source of support and she feels that if she had access to them earlier it would have made the registration process and setting up much easier:

"Since we have had her I just find a lot of things so much easier to find the answers for and it is a really big support…she has been a childminder and she knows her stuff and she knows what it is about the Care Inspectorate side of things, what they expect from you. It kind of relieves any anxiety that you might have from it."

Sophie said the CDO was "very proactive" and would inform her of any policy changes or updated guidance as well as highlight funding and training opportunities. This was particularly helpful during the pandemic:

"There is a lot of stuff you have to do when you're just not being paid, so a lot of evenings and weekends you're spending catching up on reading like your guidance, and legislation, especially during Covid there was so much stuff changing all the time, you were having to do a lot of reading, and she was very good at sending stuff out and just kind of cutting off the time you would have to spend finding it yourself, which really helps."

Improving connections and networks with peers was seen as something that would improve practice and wellbeing, as well as supporting both recruitment and retention of childminders. It was suggested that there needed to be more focus on ensuring appropriate peer support, particularly for new childminders. A more specific suggestion was that it would help if there were somewhere childminders could approach for an appraisal:

"For new childminders being able to get them into a group with other childminders is a good idea… unless you know someone that is a childminder that can help get you into those groups, you can feel isolated" (Interviewee ES4/01, former childminder)

Interaction with home and family life

While childminders spend time outside and in the community with the children they provide childcare for, a significant proportion of time will often be spent caring for them in the childminder's own home. Participants in this study described this impact this has on how easy it is to switch off at the end of the day – it was felt there was "nowhere to close the door and step away". They also described the impact of their home becoming a workplace on other members of their family – something echoed in a comment from a participant who worked as a childminding assistant for their husband (commenting from their perspective as a family member, rather than an assistant):

"What I didn't expect was almost losing the house that I co-owned. So, all of a sudden when I was on holiday, I was having to share my house with all these kids… that kind of thing was quite frustrating." ES4/03 (Interviewee ES4/03, former childminder who had worked as an assistant to partner's childminding business)

There was a perception that the impacts on home and family life had been exacerbated by increasing parental expectations in recent years, particularly around the timings of pick-ups and drop-offs:

"Parents expect you to be up insanely early to receive their kids and other clients expected you to be able to keep going until 7pm, and expectations to have a clean house, and do paperwork, it's absolutely nuts. It's a lie that you can be your own boss and set own hours." (Interviewee ES3/02, childminder considering leaving the profession)

Considerations around potential negative impacts on home and family life were clearly a contributing factor to decisions to leave, or not to join, the profession:

"My oldest child started acting out and he'd never done it before. He came back from nursery and wanted time with me, he really struggled…I had to put my own household first." (Interviewee LM4/02, former childminder)

Another participant mentioned concerns about potential wear and tear on their home, and whether they would be able to claim for any such damage under their insurance, as a factor in deciding against becoming a childminder.

While there were no obvious solutions to reducing the impact of childminding on home and family life, one potential solution was for childminders to join together and find suitable spaces they could use outside the home:

"You could maybe join another childminder and if there were like spaces or something available that you could use rather than doing it in your own house… probably would swing it a bit." (Interviewee ES1/01, considered becoming a child minder but decided not to)

Wider societal perceptions of childminding

Yarrow (2016) argues that burnout and staff turnover in the ELC workforce are, in part, a consequence of the perceived low value ascribed by society to early childhood work. The author stresses the importance of building a resilient workforce while recognising there are systemic issues that need to be addressed around this.[83] Existing research indicates that public perceptions of the sector is an issue affecting the whole early years workforce – for example, Bury et al (2020) report that the sector is not seen as attractive to those with a university degree,[84] while Pascal et al (2020) highlight the importance of changing perceptions of the sector from being primarily about childcare to being seen as a key part of the education system.[85]

However, existing research also identifies specific issues around societal perceptions of childminding in particular, and the value attached to it. Siraj and Kingston (2015) found that childminders felt that they were not understood by the general public, nor recognised for the full service they provide.[86] Similarly Campbell-Barr et al (2020) found that most childminders (89%) agreed or strongly agreed that childminding not being seen as a professional role is barrier to entering the profession. Respondents felt that even other members of the early years workforce did not properly value or understand childminding.[87] Similarly, an overarching theme of the earlier Perceptions of the impact of childminding study, for the Scottish Government,[88] was that childminders do not feel listened to or appreciated, either by society or government.

Participants interviewed for this report also felt that childminding is not fully understood or valued by wider Scottish society. It was suggested that members of the public see childminders as akin to "babysitters" and that a childminding setting is not always viewed by parents or the wider public as being of the same quality as a nursery. These perceptions were particularly frustrating given all the regulatory and other expectations placed on childminders, discussed earlier in this chapter:

"They probably just think you play with them, they don't realise how much paperwork, how much goes into it." (ES3/03, Childminder considering leaving the profession)

"[The public] think we just play but we are educators and child developers. We do play but there is a structure to it" (LM3/01, childminder considering leaving the profession)

There were similar comments that policy makers too do not fully understand or value childminding, although there was also a belief that perceptions among policy makers may have changed in recent years, in part because of the role childminders have played in sustaining ELC in Scotland since the Covid-19 pandemic:

"I think because we were opening before nurseries the value was seen in us, whereas before I think the government see us or used to see us a little bit more like babysitters, rather than actually influencing child's development." (Group 2, new childminders)

The perceived value society attaches to childminding was clearly a factor in participants' decisions to enter or leave the profession. It was also suggested that the 'low status' attached to childminding was also a barrier to diversifying the profession. For example, it was suggested that some members of the Asian community are put off by the low status of childminding; that younger people want "high flying jobs"; and that older people who have had other jobs might feel childminding is a step "backward". It was also felt that beliefs about how society views childminding put men off considering it as a career option:

"I know so many men who would be fantastic childminders. It all comes down to how that role is respected in society, people don't appreciate how important raising children is" (Interviewee ES3/03, childminder considering leaving the profession)

It was suggested that aspects of the role could be better promoted in order to improve public understanding of and attitudes towards childminding. This included highlighting: that childminders can have the same training and qualifications as staff in other ELC settings; that childminders work across an age range; and that there are childminders based across the whole country.

There was also some discussion in the existing literature of potentially changing the name 'childminder' to better reflect the skills involved in the role. Childminders in surveyed in England and Wales in 2020 were split on this issue, with 48% thinking there was a need to rename the profession.[89] There were similarly mixed views among participants in this study about a potential name change. On the one hand, there was concern that it might simply be confusing. On the other, it was suggested that updating the name might better reflect developments in the profession:

"I think [childminder] is well established now, and I think it would just start confusing people. It would just get a lot of eye rolls and sarky comments.'" (Group 1, people who considered becoming a childminder but decided not to)

"Should change whole name to pre-school teacher. (Or) Something different because childminder has no authority or weight. Childminders 40 or 50 years ago didn't need paperwork or education. The title hasn't kept up with that" (Interviewee ES2/02, new childminder)



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