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.

7. Summary and potential improvements

This report has examined in detail the issues contributing to the decline in the childminding workforce in Scotland. The data gathered from both the evidence review and the qualitative research demonstrates that there are many factors contributing to this.

As discussed in Chapter 1, it is, of course important to consider the limitations of any study and how these may affect the findings. Participants for this study were self-selecting, and the way in which the sample was structured (in order to explore challenges in workforce recruitment and retention) may have meant it was skewed towards those with more negative views of their experiences as child minders. Moreover, qualitative research does not attempt to measure prevalence of views, but to capture diverse perspectives. While neither of these limitations negatively impacts the quality of the data gathered, it should be born in mind when reading both the summary of key findings and participants' suggested improvements that these may not necessarily be representative of the views of all childminders.

Why are people leaving or not joining the childminding workforce?

Both SCMA survey data and the interviews and focus groups with potential, current and former childminders conducted for this study highlight the perception that being a childminder in 2021 entailed an off-putting amount of administration and paperwork. While no one type of administration or document was singled out (in this study at least) as being something that they would like to see reduced or removed, those interviewed listed the many tasks they saw as required of them outwith their childminding hours. Cumulatively, this was seen as too much.

Those considering leaving childminding and those that have left saw this problem as tipping the balance away from the attractive parts of the role – its flexibility and the joy of caring for and supporting children and their families. Those considering becoming a childminder said the registration process appeared complex and contributed to them not applying to register. The requirement to keep on top of paperwork, including that required for registration and good inspection grades, changes such as delivering ELC funded hours, and the new risk assessments and measures required by the pandemic have all added to the work childminders need to do when they are not caring for children. Inspections were viewed by current and former childminders as stressful, and a general desire for clearer guidance and advice on how to do well in inspections was expressed.

The long hours involved also contributed to childminders feeling the job is underpaid. Low pay was something that potential childminders said put them off pursuing it as career move, while the lack of other benefits such as holiday, maternity and sick pay were also highlighted as problems. The lack of training (or paid-for training) and a clear path for career progression were also raised. Other factors impacting the job satisfaction of current childminders were feeling isolated and finding the job is putting strain on their own home and family life.

Many of these issues were described as having worsened during the pandemic, from the amount of paperwork and administration, to the level of isolation experienced and anxieties about the wellbeing of themselves and their own families.

Views on the impact of the expansion of funded ELC hours varied among current and former childminders. While some felt it had not impacted their services, as there was still plenty of demand for them delivering non-funded hours, others reported losing business as families moved their children to funded places in nurseries. Again, additional paperwork was mentioned as a key off-putting factor by those who decided not to partner with local authorities to deliver funded hours (echoing findings from SCMA's recent ELC audit, which found that 86% of those delivering funded hours said this had led a significant increase in paperwork[104]). Childminders also expressed some worries around future policy changes around funded hours and how these might impact their business.

Finally, the perception that the public and/or government do not understand childminding or appreciate the skill involved in the role was seen as a significant issue contributing both to attitudes towards becoming a childminder, and to the morale of the current childminding workforce.

Suggestions made in this chapter

The areas for consideration and potential actions highlighted in the remainder of this chapter are based both on the evidence review, suggestions of those interviewed and our analysis of the data. It is worth noting at the outset that a number of the suggestions made by participants were very much in keeping with the ongoing work laid out in Scottish Government's 'Our Commitment to Childminding' strategy which was last updated in January 2021.[105]

Potential improvements to help retain the current workforce

The following sections summarise key issues for the workforce and raises questions and suggestions as to what could potentially be done to mitigate these. This includes both direct suggestions from those interviewed (discussed in chapters 4-6), and considerations drawing on the data from this, and earlier work.

Communications with current childminders

As discussed in earlier chapters, interviews and focus groups indicated a number of gaps between the support and information childminders we spoke to were aware of, and what is actually available. This gap between what is already available or in progress and childminders' perceptions of how well supported they feel may also be connected to time pressures on childminders – in a context in which childminders' median hours are higher than those of day-case of children staff, it may be seen as unsurprising they are not fully up to date with the latest support offers, or what steps are already being taken towards things like reducing bureaucracy. Interviews for this study indicate that many of the emails and newsletters sent to childminders may not get read or retained, not least because when they are not caring for children, they are busy fitting in essential administration.

A key question, therefore, is how existing and ongoing work can be supported by more effective communications to time-pressed childminders. Potential considerations (for the Scottish Government and local authorities, working with childminder representative organisations and others) include:

  • Is there scope to improve or communication of key messages around existing support and progress being made? In addition to addressing the 'support-awareness gap', noted above, this could also help demonstrate childminders are being listened to, which may contribute to improving overall job satisfaction. A 'you said, we did' campaign might be an option for reinforcing this.
  • Is there more scope to target communications, both on those most likely to leave the profession, and on those subjects childminders have identified as a factor in leaving? This might include childminders whose children are getting older and highlighting training on business development and how to improve the income and viability of childminding businesses. The literature indicates that the point at which childminders' own children no longer need regular childcare is a key decision point for the group of childminders who originally became childminders primarily to enable them to combine work with caring for their own children. If this group could be targeted, encouraged and supported to stay in childminding, their valuable skillset would not be lost. And for those childminders whose primary motivation is more closely linked to wanting a career in early years, is there a need to develop or enhance communications around career development in childminding (as well as considering pathways for this in general)?

Paperwork and bureaucracy

Potential actions (particularly for the Care Inspectorate, but also for local authorities with respect to ELC) include:

  • Continue to try and reduce paperwork and administrative burden – As discussed above, there was a general desire to reduce the amount of paperwork and administrative burden on childminders. The SCMA has already consulted childminders on this matter and contributed to discussions on tackling bureaucracy at the Scottish Government's Commitment to Childminding Monitor Group. They also included recommendations of where to sensibly cut administration in a recent consultation response.[106] The findings in this report provide further evidence for the need for all agencies involved (particularly the Care Inspectorate and local authorities) to continue to work to understand and, where possible, reduce the administrative burden on childminders.[107] The findings in this report, and in the SCMA's ELC audit, also indicate a particular need to look at administrative burden with respect to childminders applying for and delivering ELC funded hours.
  • Review what, if anything, can be done to enhance or better communicate guidance and support around inspections – Participants suggested that those applying to become childminders might need more or clearer guidance and support to help them understand the inspection process. Those that were put off applying by the amount bureaucracy involved may not have been fully aware of the amount of help available from childminder representative organisations in this regard (this point is covered further later in this section). Similarly, existing childminders said that they would also benefit from further guidance on what is needed as a minimum and what good practice looks like – something which again, is covered in current Care Inspectorate guidance. Both points indicate a potential need to consider how existing guidance can be enhanced (for example, are more examples of good practice and what is expected at each grade needed?) and, perhaps more importantly, effectively communicated to childminders.

Pay and benefits

Participants made several suggestions to improve rates of pay and benefits, which they felt were far lower than other jobs requiring the same levels of skills, expertise and commitment. Potential actions (for local authorities, the Scottish Government, and childminder representative organisations) included:

  • Ensure rates for funded ELC hours reflect the costs of delivery.
  • Provide more training around running a small business (this is provided by the SCMA, but participants' responses raise the issue of barriers to completing and using such training, and levels of awareness).
  • Consider whether it would be feasible to adjust ratios slightly, to allow childminders to provide childcare for more children (and thus increase their income) – Participants brought this up in the specific context of having to count your own children in ratios when they are at school, but it may be worth considering whether there is any scope for some modest flexibility within ratios which could be particularly beneficial in remote and rural areas where childcare options are much more limited.
  • Consider whether any action is possible to support childminders in relation to maternity and sick pay.
  • Consider the pros and cons of moving to a system where local authorities employ more childminders directly – One view was that childminding would be more attractive to some if they were offered a salary and associated benefits (although there would clearly be a trade-off here with the flexibility that attracts others to the profession).

Training and support

Potential actions (for local authorities, the Scottish Government, and childminder representative organisations) include:

  • Further raise awareness of existing training and support for childminders – Participants' suggestions around the training and support they wanted – particularly around the business-side of childminding – again highlight a potential gap in awareness of what is already available. These topics are covered in several SCMA courses (including a specific course on 'the business side of childminding'), while free training modules on learning and development were made available for all early years practitioners by the Scottish Government in 2020. The Care Inspectorate has also produced free bite sized modules to support those who wish to meet the National Standard. They also produced and continue to develop an online resource support childminders' CPD – Your Childminding Journey.
  • Consider what financial support can be made available to enable childminders to access training – Time and costs were significant barriers to childminders undertaking more training. Participants drew comparisons with those working in nurseries and the fact that they benefit from regular training which their employers fund and they are paid to attend.
  • Consider how best to support the development of more support and peer mentoring opportunities for childminders – There was a clear appetite for peer support and mentoring among participants. Peer support often happens informally, but it was also suggested that a more formal approach could be beneficial in terms of professional development and for general support with the challenges childminders face. As with other areas, work has already been carried out looking at peer support – for example, the SCMA delivers a childminding-specific induction support programme for new childminders and has also been exploring the potential development of a mentoring network. The Scottish Government and others could consider how best to build on existing work, to ensure that both new and existing childminders are able to access to appropriate support and networks.
  • Consider how best to support career progression for those childminders who are looking this – including looking at options to expand opportunities to become community childminders. A lack of opportunities for career development was flagged by some participants as a negative aspect of childminding. Fostering a closer relationship between childminders and local authorities might be one route to enable more career development options.

Attracting new childminders – selling points and challenges

Retaining and supporting the current childminding workforce is clearly essential if childminding is to continue to play a key role in ELC in Scotland. However, the evidence reviewed as part of this study indicates that this is unlikely to be sufficient to address the scale of the challenge – new childminders will also need to be recruited if the current decline in numbers is to be reversed.

The interviews and focus groups conducted for this study highlighted both key factors likely to attract new childminders to the profession, as well as the general challenges that may need to be addressed to encourage a larger number of applicants, and the specific barriers that may need to be overcome to attract more diverse applicants. Key factors that draw people into the childminding workforce are: being able to stay at home and work while caring for your own children or grandchildren; a desire to work with children in the early years sector; and the flexibility of the hours. Whether someone already knows a childminder may also be an influential factor, as they often provide support and information.

Whether a person is considering childminding for the flexibility and convenience when they are already caring for young children, or whether they are motivated by a desire to work in early years, this report suggests there are things which could make childminding more appealing to both audiences. Addressing potential barriers could also help attract a more diverse workforce.

Key areas for action to attract a more diverse early years workforce (which reflect many of the issues and suggestions identified in chapter 4-6 of this report) are summarised in a 2019 report from Skills Development Scotland (SDS) on diversity in the ELC workforce in Scotland generally:[108]

  • Training and workplace culture, and a lack of role models: the homogeneity of the ELC workforce can be intimidating for others to join.
  • Attitudes and perceptions: as discussed in Chapter 4 of this report, the wider public has particular perceptions about what an ELC professional looks like, which were viewed as a potential factor deterring prospective childminders, including groups that the Scottish Government might wish to attract to the profession (e.g. men, younger people, and people from some ethnic backgrounds).
  • Terms and conditions: training costs (especially for career changers) are a barrier, as are pay and working hours.
  • Opportunities for progression: SDS suggest that more needs to be done to highlight career opportunities in the early years, and to ensure that careers advisors have up to date information about careers in childminding. SCMA have also highlighted the need for a childminding-specific approach to highlighting career paths, rather than a generic early years route. They are currently exploring partnering with local authorities in remote and rural areas to deliver demographically targeted recruitment campaigns to attract new entrants to childminding.
  • Influencers: those who influence potential entrants need to be able to provide helpful information and advice. As noted in Chapter 3, prospective childminders often draw on informal advice from childminders known to them, so ensuring that existing childminders know where to direct prospective new entrants for the best information and support may be important.
  • Recruitment: perceived barriers to entering the ELC sector (including low pay/status and limited opportunities for career progression) make the early years sector less attractive and recruitment more difficult. To ensure a diverse workforce is being recruited, employers and training providers need to address unconscious bias that is likely to influence their recruitment decisions. Open recruitment policies are recommended to attract people from different backgrounds (including marginalised and excluded groups).
  • Language: Access to ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) support may be a barrier to some people (in relation to childminding – this could be relevant to support to help people navigate registration, ongoing administrative tasks, and the inspection process).

Potential actions to help attract new childminders


As discussed above, the evidence reviewed as part of this study and the qualitative research demonstrate that perceptions need to be shifted and new audiences reached if the current decline in numbers of childminders in Scotland is to be reversed. These findings provide support for a substantial programme of promotion of childminding as a profession. Such promotion could target both the easier to reach audiences (those that are typically more likely to become childminders), as well as reaching out to groups that may be less likely to have considered childminding as a career option.

The research also highlights a range of issues that will need to be considered in order for any promotional campaign to be effective:

  • How best to balance the desire to attract diverse candidates to childminding, with evidence on who may be most likely to become a childminder, when developing promotional campaigns. Ensuring that people from a wide range of backgrounds are visible in promotional materials and available to speak about their experiences at recruitment events may help address the former. Specific communications to target those whose first language is not English (as mentioned above) may also help engage new audiences. This could involve promoting any ESOL support that is available. Promotion or awareness raising of childminding in schools may not lead to people considering it as an immediate career option but could help improve the profile of the profession and encourage a wider range of people (including both men and women) to consider it in future. However, there is also a need to recognise that the existing evidence shows most childminders enter the workforce in their 30s, and that this decision is linked to combining childcare for their own family with earning and income doing something rewarding. Recruitment campaigns clearly need to recognise the importance of this group to the profession.
  • Find ways to do more to challenge public perceptions of childminders as low skilled. The Scottish Government has already committed to raising awareness of childminding so that parents and carers can make an informed choices around childcare,[109] while the SCMA's 2021-2024 strategy 'Changing the Narrative' sets out its plans to help increase the value attached to childminding. Learnings from this and previous research for the Scottish Government into perceptions of the impact of childminding could help shape messages for the general public. For example, the 'Perceptions of the impacts of childminding' study details the key selling points of childminding for parents and for the wider public in order to shift attitudes away from the idea that childminders are simply "babysitters". [110] [111] That study also highlighted some of the unique benefits to a career in childminding, such as the satisfaction of working with the same children for many years and becoming almost 'part of the family', in some cases over a decade after the child has left their care. Again, these benefits may help shape messaging both to potential childminders, parents, and the wider public.[112]
  • Given the importance of informal advice from current childminders, campaigns that utilise word of mouth and social media, or incentivise current childminders to encourage others to apply may be particularly useful. At the time of writing, the SCMA was leading the development of a recruitment campaign to include a 'Day in the Life' video, animation, and other multi-media communications, to be delivered over social media channels.
  • Ensure that promotional materials address potential barriers to becoming a childminder. Based on evidence from this and other research, this may include addressing the financial risks felt by prospective applicants, for example, by highlighting available support around making a childminding business successful, and providing information on demand for childcare, as well as highlighting wider support on offer (including around paperwork and administration).

Registration and set up

In addition to providing support for investing in promotion of childminding, the research also indicates that it may be worth considering again whether the registration process and support available around set-up can be enhanced to encourage more people to become childminders. Potential actions (particularly for the Care Inspectorate) include:

  • Considering whether the registration process can be further simplified – Although the Care Inspectorate has already taken steps to simplify the registration process and develop bespoke guidance for childminders, both potential childminders and those that were fairly new to the profession made various suggestions about changes they would like to see, including:
    • Ensuring all documents for registration are as specifically tailored to childminding as possible. There is already bespoke guidance and a bespoke application form for childminders, but the fact that this comment was still raised by participants may indicate a need to review either these or other supporting documents to see if any further tailoring is possible.
    • Providing more information upfront about what a prospective childminder needs to have in place for their service before the first inspection (e.g. checklists).
    • Providing more information on how the registration process and qualifications compare for people who were previously a childminder in another country.

There was a particular suggestion that simplifying the process could be helpful in attracting those who want to care for a smaller number of children.

  • Further highlight support available around registration Participants who did not come from a childcare background, in particular, suggested that they would have benefited from additional support with registering. As discussed, the SCMA already offer much of the support that was suggested – including a confidential helpline potential applicants can contact. However, the desire for further support expressed by participants perhaps suggests a need to consider whether awareness of this support can be increased.

Suggestions for further research

Areas for future research could include gathering data on what start-up grants for childminders are available across Scotland to identify gaps that may need to be addressed in order to encourage more people to set up childminding businesses (financial support currently differs by local authority area).



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