HL Deb 21 November 1979 vol 403 cc118-20

2.52 p.m.

Baroness VICKERS

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether their attention has been drawn to the report by the Advisory Centre for Education in regard to the fact that there are 60,000 children a day being cared for by illegal child minders, and if so what action is being contemplated to improve this situation.


My Lords, we are aware of the estimates of the number of unregistered child minders recently published in Childminder by Brian and Sonia Jackson, formerly of the Advisory Centre for Education. Although there is some room for argument about the exact figures, the number of children cared for by unregistered minders is a matter for concern. We believe that the best way to tackle the problem is for local authorities to demonstrate further the benefits of registration. We have, therefore, encouraged them to develop support and advice services, including in-service training, for minders. We are also supporting the National Childminding Association, whose main aim is to improve the standards and status of child minding.

Baroness VICKERS

My Lords, may I thank my noble friend for that very good Answer, which is very helpful. Can he tell me how many registered child minders there are, and what is their average daily pay per child?


My Lords, there were 32,000 child minders registered with local authorities as at 31st March, 1977, and, incidentally, the number of children registered at that date was 72,000. The average pay that these child minders receive is about £3 a day.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord the Minister, in relation to the first reply that he gave to the noble Baroness, whether an added responsibility is to be put on local authorities to see that there is a reduction in the number of child minders who are not registered? I understood him to say, although it was not easy to hear what he was saying, that there is to be some kind of centre set up by local authorities. Will money be made available for local authorities to do this?


My Lords, I am sorry if I was difficult to hear. I hope that I am more easily heard now. The Government are considering whether, in view of the fact that the provisions for child minders are about 30 years old, further steps should be taken to amend the regulations which have been in force for so long.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the cuts in public expenditure and the effect on local authorities which these are already having—one local authority has apparently decided to stop having any nursery school places at all—will greatly increase the number of mothers who feel that they need to use illegal and inadequate facilities such as those referred to in this Question? What plans do the Government have to deal with the crisis which they are themselves responsible for creating?


My Lords, I was not aware of the case which the noble Lord mentioned. But there is no doubt that these arrangements cannot he isolated against cuts in public expenditure.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the expression "illegal child minders" is included in the Question, and can he define what an "illegal child minder" is? Would the definition include grandma, who looks after the grandchild while its mother is out at work?


My Lords, the position is that we are talking only about child minders who are rewarded for the work they do. There are, of course, many people who are either relations or friends and who do child minding for no pay. There is nothing illegal about that, but other people who are being paid are actually operating illegally if they do not register.