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The childcare industry took one of the biggest hits during lockdown. With most people running childcare facilities being self-employed, government support was limited and many of these businesses suffered as a result.
However, business opportunities are quickly returning to the childminder sector. Now that many parents are reverting to some degree of office-based working (be it hybrid or a full week in the office), the need for childcare is returning to pre-pandemic levels.
If you’re thinking about setting up a childminder business, one of the first things you need to know is that no previous experience is required. Generally, you should have a natural interest in childcare, and there are certain background checks and training that you’ll need to complete.
In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know about setting up a childminder business, including legal requirements, the registration process, and the key skills required to work in childcare.
What is a childminder and what do they do?
Childminders are self-employed and offer professional childcare and early education services, normally from their homes or other domestic premises (if you’re based in a rental property, you should check your agreement or speak to your landlord first).
The day-to-day duties of a childminder can vary and depend on the needs of each child and agreement with their parents, but generally speaking, they help children learn key skills like reading, language, creativity, and imagination. They’re also often responsible for taking children to and from school or nursery, and looking after their overall health and development.
What are the key skills of a childminder?
Childcare isn’t for everyone. Being responsible and directly involved in children’s personal and educational development can make it an extremely rewarding career, but there are some key skills that a successful childminder should have before getting started, such as:
- Patience: Not all children are well-behaved, so you should have the patience to remain positive and motivated.
- Communication: Effective verbal communication with both children and parents is essential to ensure children are progressing and well looked after.
- Organisation: You’re likely to be looking after several children, each with specific needs. Good organisational skills are useful for keeping track of each child’s schedule and development.
- Caring: It goes without saying that children need adequate care and attention, so as a childminder, you should be naturally helpful and compassionate.
- Teamwork: You’ll be working with several children as well as their parents, and you may even have an assistant, so good teamwork skills are essential for your business to run smoothly.
- Sensitivity and understanding: Similar to patience, children require sensitivity and understanding from their carers, especially those who may need additional support.
- Work well under pressure: As a childminder, your days could be unpredictable, and some might be tougher than others. You should be able to handle pressure well, to stay motivated and keep your business moving forward.
- Genuine motivations: Money shouldn’t be your main motivator as a childminder. Your income can fluctuate in this industry, and this is normally a suitable career choice for those who genuinely love teaching and supporting children.
What are the legal requirements of a childminder?
To become a childminder in England, it is compulsory to register your business with one or both of the following Ofsted registers, depending on the ages of the children that you’ll be caring for:
- The Early Years Register – under 5
- The Childcare Register – ages 5-8
The process is different if your business is based in other parts of the UK. You can find guidance on how to register as a childminder in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales on the respective government websites.
Once you’re registered, Ofsted will carry out an inspection to make sure that you and your childcare facilities meet the safeguarding, welfare, learning and development requirements. How and when you’re inspected depends on the type of register that you’re on, and the nature of your organisation (e.g. operating from home or running a nursery/pre-school).
In preparation for the inspection, you should risk assess the premises that you will use to run your childminder business. You can find more information on Ofsted inspections on the GOV.UK website.
How many children can I look after?
To make sure that children are well cared for and have the right level of support, you’ll have to adhere to certain staff-child ratios.
In England, the general rule is that a childminder can look after up to 6 children under the age of 8. Of those, up to 3 can be younger than 5 years old, and no more than 1 should be under the age of 1. If you look after more children, you need to take on an assistant, whilst ensuring the ratio for each adult remains 1:6.
The few exceptions to this rule are:
- If you’re caring for siblings
- If you’re caring for your own child
- If you’re looking after children aged 3-5 outside of normal school hours/days and/or during school holidays, they can be looked after at the same time as 3 other children
You can find more information on ratios and exceptions in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Framework.
How do I start my childminder business?
There are several steps you need to cover before you can become a registered childminder:
1. Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks
You and any assistants over the age of 16 will need to undergo a DBS check. This assesses your criminal record to make sure you are legally and morally fit to be a childminder.
2. First aid certificate
You are legally required to obtain a paediatric first aid certificate. You can do this with any provider you wish, but it must be a full course, renewed every 3 years.
3. Childminder training course
While no previous professional experience is required to start a childminding business, you will need to complete a training course for the specific register that you’re on.
If you’re unsure which provider or course to choose, the best thing to do is contact your local council and they’ll be able to advise you. The Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) also runs widely recognised training courses.
4. Health declaration form
Before you register with Ofsted, you need to complete a health declaration form. You need to fill in all the parts relevant to you, and some parts will need to be completed by your GP.
You will need to provide the details of two people who can confirm that your character is suitable for a childminder.
6. Ofsted registration
One of the last steps is registering with Ofsted. There are two registers (as explained earlier).
7. Home inspection
An Ofsted representative will contact you to arrange an inspection of the premises where you plan to run your business. They will check your identity, qualifications, language proficiency, and ultimately, that your home (or premises) is suitable for children.
8. Registration certificate
Once you’ve passed the inspection, you will receive a registration certificate from Ofsted. You’ll also receive a Unique Reference Number (URN), which is used to publish your details online (optional).
The final step is to get public liability insurance. This covers injuries (both staff and children) and property damage that may occur from business activities.
The process can take up to 12 weeks from start to finish. Once you’ve ticked all the above boxes, you can start childminding.
How much does it cost to set up a childminder business?
Most of the above steps involve fees. Here is a rough idea of the start-up costs:
1. DBS checks
For a childminder business, an enhanced DBS check is recommended.
2. First aid certificate
The first aid fees will vary depending on the training body that you use. The British Red Cross course starts at £209.
3. Childminder training course
Childminding UK offers an introductory course for £145. Again, these costs will vary on the provider, course length, and structure. Either way, the course must be Ofsted recognised.
4. Health declaration form
There are no government fees for the health declaration form; however, your doctor may charge you for the section they need to complete.
5. Ofsted registration
Registration fees depend on the type of childcare that you undertake. Here is a breakdown of the costs:
|Type of childcare
|Early Years Register
|Childcare on domestic/non-domestic premises
|Nanny or au pair (home childcarer)
|Reduced fee for childcare on non-domestic/domestic premises
The upfront costs can quickly stack up, so to support childminder start-ups, the government offers a childminder grant scheme, which means you can claim £600 to help you get your business started. New childminders are eligible to apply from autumn 2023.
Your insurance premium also depends on the provider and level of cover. Morton and Michel offer specialist childcare insurance and prices start at £63.02 per year.
We hope that you found this guide useful and detailed enough to help you get your childminder business off the ground. Once you’ve ticked all these boxes, you may want to start thinking about promoting your services. This could be through a website, social media, or business cards, for example.
Starting a business can be difficult, complicated, and isolating, so no matter what type of company you’re setting up, our team of formation experts is always here to help. Get in touch with us today to get started.