There are 3 Childminding Networks attached to Sure Start programmes in Northern Ireland. They are jointly managed by NICMA - the Childminding Association and by each of the respective Sure Start programmes.
A Childminding Network is Defined as :
...a formal group of registered childminders who are recruited in a particular geographical area and assessed and monitored to quality standards by a Childminding Network Co-ordinator. The Network is a means of ensuring that childminders provide a high quality care and education service to children and families. A Network can consist of between 10 - 30 childminders, depending on local requirements, providing up to 90+ childminding places.
The networks are all underpinned by a commitment to enhancing the quality of care of their members.
Childminding Networks are attached to Sure Start programmes in the following areas:
Extensive research studies have shown that quality of childcare affects outcomes for children. Research also indicates that quality of childcare may be especially important for children from low-income households both in terms of the positive impact of good quality care and the adverse effect of poor quality care. In Northern Ireland, Sure Start programmes generally serve only the most deprived areas. Thus, Childminding Networks attached to Sure Start projects in Northern Ireland are almost all serving areas where there is a relatively high proportion of low-income households.
Childminding Networks have significant benefits for parents, children and childminders including:
- Provision of childcare places, enabling parents to return to work or training, or to continue in their employment/training
- Reassurance for parents that their children are being well looked after
- The provision of back-up care through the network if a child’s normal childminder is sick
In addition, the following benefits of short-term respite placements for parents were identified:
- The reduction of stress for the parent
- The opportunity for parents with children requiring a lot of attention to carry out chores which are difficult to do when they are around
- Obtaining a respite placement much more quickly than would be the case through social services
Key benefits of the networks for children:
- The enhancement and assurance of the quality of care provided by childminders who are network members, in particular, through the training courses they follow
- The variety and quality of activities provided for children by network members
- The opportunity for children to mix with other children at the network drop-ins
- The opportunity to go on outings organised by the network which parents either could not easily afford or could not easily manage to organise themselves
- Improvements in children’s development and social skills
The Role of Childminding Networks in supporting the Sure Start programme in Northern Ireland.
Childminding networks bring together childminders to enhance childcare quality and to provide professional support. NICMA has teamed up with Sure Start to provide 12 such networks in Northern Ireland. This report examines the impact the networks have had and the benefits they're bringing for childminders, children and parents.