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Childminder agencies: expressions of interest

Stephen Nicks made this Freedom of Information request to Department for Education

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Dear Department for Education,

Please provide me with a list of the organisations that the Department has:

A) written to with a view to inviting interest in piloting childminder agencies;

B) received a proactive expression of interest in piloting childminder agencies from, and;

C) been working with (subsequent to an initial approach by either party) to establish childminder agency pilot schemes.

I would also be grateful if you could tell me how many representations the Department has received against childminder agencies.

Yours faithfully,

Stephen Nicks

Department for Education

Dear Mr Nicks

Thank you for your recent enquiry. A reply will be sent to you as soon as possible. For information; the departmental standard for correspondence received is that responses should be sent within 20 working days as you are requesting information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Your correspondence has been allocated reference number 2013/0038316

Thank you

Department for Education
Ministerial and Public Communications Division
Tel: 0370 000 2288

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Department for Education

Dear Mr Nicks,
Thank you for your Freedom of Information request dated 18 June regarding 
childminder agencies.  In your request, you specifically asked for a list
of organisations that the Department has:

 a.    written to with a view to inviting interest in piloting childminder
agencies

b.    received a proactive expression of interest in piloting childminder
agencies from, and;

c.    been working with (subsequent to an initial approach by either
party) to establish childminder agency pilot schemes

You also wanted to know how many representations the Department for
Education has received against childminder agencies.

 I have dealt with your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

The Department has decided that the public interest lies in disclosing
only the information on the numbers of those who have expressed an
interest or been written to by the Department but not in listing the names
of the individual organisations.

The names of the individual organisations are being withheld because they
are exempt from disclosure under Section 35(1)(a) of the Act, which
relates to the formulation or development of government policy.
Conversely, it is in the public interest that the formulation of
Government policy and Government decision making can proceed in the
self-contained space needed to ensure that it is done well.  Good
Government depends on good decision making which needs to be based on the
best advice available and a full consideration of the options.  It is
therefore not in the public interest to disclose the names of the
individual organisations who have expressed an interest or have been
written to by the Department, as this would be likely to prejudice and
inhibit Government decision making and policy development which should be
able to be done in a protected space.

Therefore, in relation to points a) and b) of your request, tthrough a
combination of approaches to the Department by organisations and from the
Department to organisations, we received 95 expressions of interest to
take part in CMA trials.  All organisations who had expressed an interest
were invited to submit their proposals.  As outlined in the report stage
and 3^rd reading debate of the Children and Families Bill, Elizabeth Truss
- Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (education and childcare) - set
out that the organisations the Department had written to represented a mix
of businesses (ranging from multi-national nursery chains to individual
childminders), academies, maintained schools, national childcare
organisations, children’s centres and local authorities. 

In relation to point c), at the time of your request, we were still in the
process of working through with whom we might establish childminder agency
trials.

Turning to your final request about how many representations the
Department has received against childminder agencies, our records show
that we have recorded 21 items of correspondence and 1 petition of 48
signatures.

If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me. Please
remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

If you are unhappy with the way your request has been handled, you should
make a complaint to the Department by writing to me within two calendar
months of the date of this letter.  Your complaint will be considered by
an independent review panel, who were not involved in the original
consideration of your request. 

If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint to the
Department, you may then contact the Information Commissioner’s Office. 

Your correspondence has been allocated reference number 2013/0038316. If
you need to respond to us, please visit:
[1]www.education.gov.uk/contactus, and quote your reference number.

 

Yours sincerely
Gregona Samuel
Market Policy Structure
[2][email address]
[3]www.education.gov.uk

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2. mailto:[email address]
3. http://www.education.gov.uk/

Dear Department for Education,

Thank you for your response. Notwithstanding the data you provided in said response, I do not accept that full disclosure is not in the public interest, and would therefore be grateful for this to be tested via the internal review mechanism and, if then necessary, by the Information Commissioner's Office.

Disclosing the lists of those actively working with the Department would not endanger the policy making process or the quality of advice to Ministers, but would allow others (particularly childminders in areas which may be affected) sufficient time to plan for the eventuality.

I look forward to your acknowledgement and the results of the internal review.

Yours faithfully,

Stephen Nicks

Department for Education

Dear Mr Nicks

Thank you for your e-mail of 15 July requesting an internal review
following your initial request for information, which was received on 18
June. 

I am writing to confirm we will be proceeding your request and shall be
conducting an internal review shortly. We shall respond as appropriate in
due course in accordance with the relevant timescales.

If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me. Please
remember to quote the reference number 2013/0045235 in any future
communications.

Yours sincerely,

Jonathan Savage

Department for Education
[1]www.education.gov.uk

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References

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Department for Education

Dear Mr Nicks,
Thank you for your email dated 15 July regarding the reply you received
from the Department in response to your earlier request under the Freedom
of Information Act asking for information on the organisations involved
with childminder agencies trials.

I understand you do not accept that full disclosure of the organisations’
details is not in the public interest. Your complaint has been considered
by an independent review panel, who were not involved in the original
consideration of your request.

I must first apologise that the original response we sent to you was not
as detailed as it should have been.

In our first reply it was explained that the Department had decided that
the public interest lies in disclosing only the information on the numbers
of those who have expressed an interest or been written to by the
Department but not in listing the names of the individual organisations.

Furthermore, the names of the individual organisations were being withheld
because they are exempt from disclosure under Section 35(1)(a) of the Act,
which relates to the formulation or development of government policy.
Section 35 is a qualified exemption and therefore a public interest test
had been carried out. As further explanation I can tell you that in doing
so the following factors were taken into consideration:

 ·         There is a general public interest in disclosure.  Knowledge of
the way government works increases if the information on which key
decisions have been made is available.  This can lead to public
contribution to the policy making process becoming more effective.  There
is a general public interest in being able to see if Ministers are being
briefed effectively on the key areas of policy the Department is taking
forward.

·         Conversely, it is in the public interest that the formulation of
Government policy and Government decision making can proceed in the
self-contained space needed to ensure that it is done well.  Good
Government depends on good decision making which needs to be based on the
best advice available and a full consideration of the options.  It is
therefore not in the public interest to disclose the names of the
individual organisations who have expressed an interest or have been
written to by the Department, as this would be likely to prejudice and
inhibit Government decision making and policy development which should be
able to be done in a protected space.

 ·      When formulating policy, it is important that the Department can
consult with relevant organisations and discuss in confidence any emerging
issues.  Disclosing any information thought to have been shared in
confidence could prevent members of the organisations concerned from
coming forward with potentially useful information in future.  This could
jeopardise future policy making and the quality and thoroughness of the
research that the Department can conduct on the establishment of
childminder agencies.

Section 22 of the FOI Act exempts information requested if it is intended
for future publication. The FOI Act recognises the desirability of
information being freely available in its own right, but Section 22 also
acknowledges that public authorities must have freedom to be able to
determine their own publication timetable.  This allows them to deal with
the necessary preparation, administration and context of publication.

Section 22 is a qualified exemption and as such requires us to examine the
public interest balance.  Although the specific date for publication has
not yet been determined the proposed publication timetable is to be
reasonable in all circumstances.

As such, the arguments for release include general openness and
transparency in Government.  The arguments to withhold this information
are that it is reasonable in all the circumstances that the information
should be withheld from disclosure while the policy process is on-going
and the information is a conveniently planned and managed activity within
the reasonable control of public authorities.

We therefore concluded that the public interest lies in not disclosing the
names of the individual organisations at this time.

In addition, releasing the names of the organisations could potentially
identify individuals from the organisations and this is being withheld
under section 40(2) of the Act. Section 40(2) provides that personal data
about third parties is exempt information if one of the conditions set out
in section 40(3) is satisfied. Under the FOI Act disclosure of this
information would breach the fair processing principle contained in the
Data Protection Act (DPA), where it would be unfair to that person. This
exemption is 'absolute' in these circumstances, which means that it is not
necessary for the Department to run a test to balance the public interest
in release against that in withholding the information.

With regard to the approaches made with organisations for possible
involvement with childminder agencies I can tell you that the combination
included telephone calls, emails, workshops, discussions with sector
bodies and through them their memberships plus general enquiries.
Organisations wishing to be involved in the trialling of childminder
agencies also submitted proposals explaining their plans for testing out
aspects of childminder agencies. This allowed officials to ensure there is
a broad representation of types and locations of organisation
participating in the trial.

We plan to publish details of all the organisations involved with the
childminder agencies trials later this year, once the process is
finalised. This information will, of course, be made available to
childminders in the trial areas. We are also currently in the process of
setting up a web information page for  childminder agencies  that will
provide  information about childminder agencies in general.  We will write
to you again once we have the details for the publication date and the
link for the website.

Taking your final point with regard to allowing others, particularly
childminders, to prepare for the eventuality of childminder agencies I
should make it clear that this is simply a trial. 

We want agencies to offer an alternative for those childminders who may
not want to operate independently and instead prefer to join an agency, so
they can benefit from the more formalised services that agencies offer. 
However, Agencies will also be optional for both childminders and parents
– so childminders can continue working independently should they choose to
do so, and parents can still opt for an independent childminder if they
prefer.  

I hope this letter now clarifies for you the position with regard to
publishing the details of the organisations involved with the childminder
agencies trials.

If you are unhappy with the outcome of this internal review, you have the
right to appeal directly to the Information Commissioner. The Information
Commissioner can be contacted at:

 

            Information Commissioner’s Office

            Wycliffe House

            Water Lane

            Wilmslow

            Cheshire

            SK9 5AF

 

If the Commissioner comes to the conclusion that that the information
should be released, he will issue an enforcement notice which will set out
the steps which the Department must take and the date by which they must
be taken.

If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me. Please
remember to quote our reference number in any future communications.

Yours sincerely

 

 

 

Margaret Brandon

Children’s Services and Departmental Strategy Directorate

 

 

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Communications via the GSi may be automatically logged, monitored and/or
recorded for legal purposes.

We don't know whether the most recent response to this request contains information or not – if you are Stephen Nicks please sign in and let everyone know.