Landlords urged to review barriers preventing childminders from working at home

Children’s minister Claire Coutinho said some childminders are prevented from working in their rental property (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Children’s minister Claire Coutinho said some childminders are prevented from working in their rental property (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Blocks on childminders looking after children in their rental properties should be lifted to help boost numbers in the sector, a minister has told landlords.

Children’s minister Claire Coutinho has written to housing associations, social landlords and developers urging them to review restrictive clauses in tenant contracts which could prevent them from working in their own homes.

The restrictions are seen as a factor that can discourage people from considering a career in childminding.

She said: “We have outstanding, high-quality childminders, offering flexible and accessible childcare in a home-like environment.

“Too often prospective childminders are having the door slammed in their faces because they face a blanket ban on working from home.”

It comes as the UK Government lays the groundwork to begin offering more free childcare provision to parents.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced reforms for England in the Budget in March which will allow some families of children as young as nine months to claim 30 hours of free childcare a week.

From April next year, working parents of two-year-olds will be able to access 15 hours of free childcare. This will be extended to working parents of all children older than nine months from September next year.

According to the Department for Education (DfE), the number of childminders operating in England has more than halved over the past 10 years, with ministers looking to reverse the trend ahead next year’s childcare offer expansion.

Officials at the department said childminders who are living in leasehold properties are sometimes blocked by so-called restrictive covenants which prevent the property from being used for business purposes.

Some who are living in rented accommodation have found that their tenancy agreements prevent them from registering their business or that their landlords’ mortgage agreements include restrictions from the lender, DfE officials said.

Downing Street turmoil
Children’s minister Claire Coutinho has written to landlords about the barriers tenants face when embarking on a childminder career (UK Parliament/PA)

As well as attempting to remove rental sector barriers to childminding, ministers have also announced other measures designed to encourage more people into caring for school-aged children.

The Conservative Government said it has tabled amendments to the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill that will allow professionals to work in groups of up to four childminders in total in a bid to tackle loneliness in the sector.

The childminder start-up grant, worth up to £1,200 for all childminders who have joined the profession since the Budget, is also due to be rolled out “soon”, according to the DfE.

Ms Coutinho said: “We are addressing the challenges childminders face including loneliness, where they work, long registration times and local authority pay timetables.

“Through our support of the sector, we will deliver the flexible care that parents need.”

Separately, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan is urging parents to check they are claiming the free childcare hours they are already entitled to, with the data showing around one in 20 children nationally may be missing out.

There are 10 days left to claim for hours for the autumn term, the Cabinet minister said.

Ms Keegan said: “I wouldn’t want any family to miss out because they can’t find childcare that meets their needs or simply didn’t know how much they were entitled to.”