Choosing services and activities safely
It's very important that you carefully consider which services you would like to use and which activities are suitable for you. When you decide to contact a service take some time to find out about them to make sure they are safe to use.
Below are some questions that you could ask. Remember good services will always welcome your questions.
Is the service registered with Ofsted?
This will apply to childcare providers or other supervised activities for children or young people. There are 2 types of Ofsted registration:
- registered on the "Early Years Register" - services on this register are checked and inspected by Ofsted
- registered on the "Voluntary Ofsted Register" - services on this have shown they have certain checks and procedures in place. They are not regularly inspected and this is much lighter touch than being on the "Early Years Register"
Is the service accredited?
Depending on what the service offers it may be accredited in some way. This generally means that the service has made a commitment to a set of standards. If you're wanting to find out more about what different accreditation schemes mean then contact the accrediting body or their website.
Ask the service some questions
Some ones you might want to think about are:
- do staff and volunteers have DBS (formerly Criminal Records Bureau) checks? All Staff working with, or having access to children, young people or vulnerable adults should be DBS checked
- are staff and volunteers appropriately trained, supported and supervised?
- does the service belong to a professional organisation or quality assurance scheme?
- does the service have the following policies in place: child protection, health and safety, complaints?
- is there a commitment to equal opportunities and anti-discriminatory practice? How do staff ensure that all users are included and feel comfortable?
- does your activity welcome and support disabled children and children with additional needs? All services should make reasonable adjustments to support disabled children. However, you may want to know what adjustments they will make and what they will do to support a disabled child or young person to be included
Other things to think about could include:
- think about visiting the setting or group before you start using them regularly
- phone for written information
- ask for references or try and speak to other people using the service
- if your children are using a service ask them questions about their activities and listen to any concerns they may have
Questions to ask when trying to find a toddler group to suit you.
Who are they for and where are they?
Toddler groups are places where children can play under the supervision and care of their parents. Adults can either join in or socialise with other adults in attendance. There are a variety of different names for groups and they meet in places such as church halls, community centres, family centres and family restaurants.
Toddler groups aim to provide play opportunities for children aged from birth to school age with a parent or carer accompanying the child(ren) at all times. Toddler groups are not classified as childcare and are not registered and inspected. Some of the toddler groups are run by playgroups (or pre-schools) and often the children move on to playgroup at the same premises.
Who runs them?
The people organising toddler groups may be volunteers or paid staff. If they are run by volunteers then parents and carers may be encouraged to get involved in helping. This may be with the organisation or perhaps occasional fundraising activities. Involvement in these activities can sometimes lead to a career working with young children. If this interests you, contact the recruitment officer by telephone: 01904 554444.
What else do I need to know?
The charges for toddler groups vary according to the organisation of the group and whether there is paid staff. Groups usually meet once or twice a week often for a period of a couple of hours. Some have a waiting list, but many operate on a ‘drop-in’ basis. They do not have to be registered and there are no quality standards for them to meet. Some indicators of good quality are:
- clean safe premises, warm enough for small children to play
- clean unbroken toys
- records kept of children and families attending and financial records
- access to telephone in emergencies
- more than one exit from the building in case of fire
- first aid kit should be available
- other reasonable safety measures should be in place
- no smoking or alcohol should be allowed when children are present
These measures are only a guide and the best toddler group for you and your child is the one where you feel most welcome and included.