Checking Childcare Providers - Document Checks, Research & References
You can find excellent advice on choosing childcare at www.childcare.co.uk
Choosing the perfect childcarer for your child is one of the most important things you as a parent will ever do for them. It is important that you take your time and be as sure as you possibly can be that the person you choose is suitable to care for your child, so you can be reassured that your child’s care, well-being and learning are in safe hands.
There are a number of important checks you should carry out before entering into a contract with a childcare provider to care for your children. We suggest that you put together a file with a tick sheet which will help you to ensure you have seen each piece of evidence and talked to the childcarer about each aspect of your child’s care which you want to discuss.
Check Registration Certificates and Insurance
All childminders must be registered with Ofsted in England. Childminders must show you their registration certificate - and the childminder’s registration number can be entered into the Ofsted website to view the childminder’s latest inspection report and details about any complaints which have been upheld against them. Registered childminders can accept childcare vouchers and tax credits can also help parents with childcare costs.
All childcarers should have appropriate, up-to-date public liability insurance to carry out their work and you should ask to see proof of insurance cover.
CRB checks in England and Wales have had a new name since 1st December 2012. They are now called DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checks. You can find out more on gov.uk.
It is very important that parents check that their potential childcarer has a DBS check in place and read any comments on the disclosure carefully. Note that some childminders who were registered before October 2005 in England might not have a CRB check because they will have been Police checked at the time and Ofsted hold these details, not the childminder.
Everyone who lives in a childminder’s house who is over the age of 16 must also have a DBS check. Checks are not normally updated by Ofsted. Parents might find that some childcarers have more than one check if they do other child-related voluntary or paid work.
A DBS check will help parents to find out more about the criminal history of their potential childcarer and / or childminder’s family. The following information is included in an enhanced DBS disclosure -
• Spent and unspent convictions;
• Cautions, warnings and reprimands via a search on the Police national database;
• Notification if the person is listed on the children’s or vulnerable adults’ barred list;
• Information held by Police or SAAFA if the childcarer has been in the army;
• Social services concerns relating to the childcarers children or family history.
Note that a DBS check is not infallible because it is only up-to-date on the day it is undertaken. However, it does provide parents with useful insights into their childcarer’s past. There is now something called the DBS Update Service which lets applicants keep their DBS certificates up to date online and allows employers to check a certificate online.
It is very important that parents carry out their own robust checks during the interview process.
Applying for a DBS Check
There are many organisations that you can use to undertake a DBS check for yourself or a prospective employee. Some companies offering this service include Experian, Online DBS Checks, PersonalChecks and ucheck.
Childcare providers can also use the Ofsted DBS Application portal provided by Security Watchdog, part of Capita Plc, to apply for a DBS check.
Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme
The child sex offender disclosure scheme allows parents, carers and guardians to formally ask the police to tell them if someone has a record for child sexual offences.
The scheme is available across all 43 police forces in England and Wales.
If your childcarer is going to transport your child in their own vehicle then you must ensure they have the correct documentation in place. This includes:
• Insurance - class 1 business insurance is required for transporting children and the childcarer’s insurance certificate should state that the insured is covered to drive a vehicle used for transporting children; (Insurance checker)
• Up-to-date tax and MOT certificates (DVLA MOT check);
• Driving licence (DVLA driving licence check);
• Car breakdown cover is important so your child is not stranded if the car breaks down.
You should also ask to see the childcarer’s vehicle - would you be happy for the childcarer to use it for transporting your children? Are car seats in good repair and consistent with current standards - or will you provide your own? Does the childcarer demonstrate competent parking skills? If a childcarer is reluctant to show parents documentation and demonstrate that their car is suitable for transporting children - alarm bells should ring!
Proof Of Identity
Parents should ask to see 2 sets of proof of identity - one which features the childcarer’s photo and one which contains their address. Proof of identity might include, for example, a passport, driving licence, visa, work permit, birth certificate or utility bill.
For more information about documentation required by a non-British citizen who wants to work in the UK please HMRC's website.
As part of a ‘proof of identity’ check, parents should verify the childcare provider’s eligibility to work in the UK. It is a legal requirement, detailed in the Asylum and Immigration Act 2006, to check that the person you intend to employ has the right to work in the UK and is here legally. Again, gov.uk provides further advice on how to check if someone can work in the UK.
All childminders must have a valid paediatric First Aid certificate and if childcarers care for older children who have reached puberty they should also have a valid adult First Aid training certificate. Many childcarers will have evidence of continued professional development including course attendance certificates and level 2 and 3 early years qualifications. These are important for demonstrating that the childcare provider is committed to self improvement and to enhancing their practice - however, it is not a requirement of Ofsted registration.
It is very important that parents find out as much as they can about their potential childcare provider before leaving them alone with the children. All childcarers should be able to provide parents with references. If they are newly registered, they might provide a character reference rather than a job-based reference plus a reference from, for example, a college tutor or a parent for whom they have provided babysitting services.
Parents should telephone all referees - anyone can answer an email! Make a list of questions you want to ask and go through them all after introducing yourself and checking that the person you are calling has time to chat to you.
Questions you might ask include:
• How long have you known the childcare provider?
• What is your relationship with the provider?
• How long has the childcarer worked for you - and in what capacity?
• Are you pleased with the childcarer’s work? You might want to ask about their timekeeping, cleanliness, play ideas with the children, responsibility, ability to cope in stressful situations etc.
• Why is the childcarer leaving your employment?
There are a number of companies who offer reference checking services if you would rather outsource this process to an organisation who is experienced in this area. An internet search will reveal a number of organisations offering reference checking services such as Experian and Verifile.
Other documentation your childcare provider might show you
A professional childcare provider will want to demonstrate to you that they are capable of caring for children of different ages and that they are have the skills and knowledge to manage the very individual needs of your child. Many childcare providers will do this via a combination of telephone and face-to-face interview and written documentation. For example, childminders will show you their policies, procedures, risk assessments, sample paperwork for the children and share with you information as required by the EYFS (Early Years Register) and Ofsted. You should make time to look at this documentation and to complete any forms given to you by your childcarer because they will form part of the contract between you and will be important to ensure your child’s needs are met.
Do some sleuthing to find out more information
Parents might also be able to find out more about their potential childcare provider’s identity online. For example, social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter may give a useful insight into the childcarer’s online activities - are they on Facebook all day? Do they talk about the children and families for whom they currently work?
Try searching on Google for the childcare provider's name to see what you can find out about them. Carrying out your own research like this can often provide much greater insight into a person and are useful when combined with more official checks such as DBS checks and references.
Childminders are often registered with their local Family Information Service which offers another source of information about the provider which parents can easily access.