SCMA Statement on Childminding Fees

SCMA Statement on Childminding Fees
SCMA is a professional membership organisation and we have around 3800 childminder members in Scotland. We are not a governing body in the sense that we cannot mandate or enforce practice.

Instead, we operate within official guidance for childcare and provide a range of support, advice and information to support childminders in their practice and business activities.

The subject of fees and what to charge parents during these exceptional times is an area on which we have received an increasing number of requests to provide advice to members recently. In parallel, we have also received some requests from parents regarding this. In aiming to do this, we fully recognise the individual nature of members’ businesses and that the final decision regarding what to charge is a personal decision.

As such, our advice is only suggestive.

In normal circumstances, a common model used by many childminders (and with which childminders and parents may be familiar) is that if a child is unable to attend the setting, the parent/carer continues to pay a fee to keep the place open and if the childminder’s setting is not open, the parent doesn’t pay a fee. However, we recognise that such models are only for short-term use i.e. short periods of sickness. We are in completely different territory during the coronavirus outbreak, where no-one knows how long this will last and normal payment models may not be appropriate or sustainable – either for the childminder or for parents/carers.

What we have been advising, and will continue to advise, is that as childminders it would be wise to build on the relationship which you have with your parents/carers and to discuss this individually with them.

For some businesses, it may be possible to develop a standard policy regarding payment. However in others, and as each case may be different, a single approach or standard policy may not work for all of the families you support, depending upon their financial circumstances. Some parents/carers may be in receipt of full pay at this time, either while working from home or in self-isolation; others may be on reduced hours/pay at this time; and others may not be receiving any pay. And as a childminder, if your setting is closed or if you remain open on a reduced basis (within official guidance to support families of key workers or vulnerable children), you may be experiencing a loss of income, need to maintain an income and the viability of your business.

In simple terms, we are all in this together and we would suggest adopting a pragmatic approach which recognises the situation in which we all find ourselves:

- where parents/carers are in receipt of full income and are able to make normal payment to their childminder to keep a place open we would encourage them to continue to do so, as your childminder may have no other source of income;
 - where parents/carers are on reduced income or are not in receipt of an income we would encourage childminders to consider alternate options. These could include part-payment, deferred payment or a retainer fee. Retainer fees, if affordable, could be particularly useful as this will ensure that the childminder has a place available to provide childcare for the child/ren as soon as social distancing measures are relaxed.

In agreeing an approach which works for both childminders and parents/carers, we would also suggest that you review this and be flexible, as individual financial circumstances could change the longer the period of social distancing continues.

Some parents may also be aware of the Chancellor’s announcement last week that many self-employed business owners will be able to access a grant equivalent to up to 80% of their normal profits and assume that their childminder does not require payment at this time.

For clarity, not all self-employed business owners will be able to claim this grant (i.e. if only within their first year of operation) and even those who can claim it will not receive any money back from the government before June.

As such, childminders may have no source of income over the next two months while parents/carers may be in receipt of an income. For further information, based on current understanding, self-employed people who may be invited to apply for this government grant can still earn an income without it affecting their receipt of a grant.

With the coronavirus outbreak and the current ‘lockdown’ we are all in completely new territory which none of us have experienced before. Both childminders and parents want childminding businesses to be there when restrictions are lifted. All we can do is encourage pragmatism, flexibility and mutual support recognising the individual circumstances of all.

Graeme McAlister
SCMA Chief Executive
30 March 2020