Posted: Thu 24th Aug 2023
Restrictions should be reviewed so more childminders can work from rented properties to increase the availability of childcare, families minister Claire Coutinho has said.
The minister made the plea in a letter to housing associations, developers and landlords in England.
Among the challenges faced by childminders are "restrictive covenants" which mean properties cannot be used for business purposes and landlord mortgage agreements that include restrictions from the lender.
According to data by childminder agency Tiney, one in eight prospective childminders who did not complete the registration process were unable to do so because they could not secure permission to work from their home.
In the letter, Coutinho said:
"Childminders enable communities to flourish. By allowing a childminder to work from your property, you are not only giving them the opportunity to run a successful business, but you are also improving the life chances of families who use their service.
"Children in your area will benefit from local, high quality, flexible education and care, and their parents can work, earn a living and boost the local economy. All these things combine to make an area an attractive place to live, which is also good for landlords and developers.
"Whatever your role in the housing sector, I am urging you to do your bit to help families find the childcare they need by checking that you are doing all you can to support childminding in your properties and communities."
Enterprise Nation has long campaigned to make it easier for people to start businesses of all types from rented homes. That campaigning led to changes in the law in 2015.
Enterprise Nation founder Emma Jones said:
"According to our own research, a third of all adults are thinking about starting a business. This is partly fuelled by the cost of living crisis, but mostly it's about developing a skill or a hobby to make more money and finding a better work/life balance.
"This means landlords and housing associations need to be more prepared to accept and understand these new ways of working, because this really is the future."
Reforming the childcare system
With the number of childminders in England reducing my more than half during the past 10 years, the government's latest action is part of its attempt to significantly increase the provision of free childcare in England.
In his Budget in March, chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced that the 30 hours of free childcare allowance for working parents will be extended to all children over nine months. The change will be introduced in stages starting in April 2024.
He also announced that the hourly rate paid to providers of free childcare will increase from September this year and to encourage more childminders, a start-up grant of up to £1,200 will be provided.
The government has also said it will consult on reducing childminders registration times to around 10 weeks and ensure they are paid monthly by local councils.
In September, the new Early Education and Childcare Coalition will launch.
The group that represents parents, children, childcare providers, and businesses says it was "developed in response to the growing pressures facing the sector and families".
"Continued underfunding, rising costs, and workforce pressures created a growing need for collaboration among all those impacted by the crisis in early education and childcare.
"The Spring Budget in March 2023 recognised the importance of the sector in underpinning the economy, but proposals failed to address the underlying structural and funding crises that have become a hallmark of recent policymaking. We want to change that.”