CHILDMINDERS were paid late or not at all in the weeks leading up to Christmas as Wiltshire Council brought in a new payment system.

Dozens of people providing 'free' childcare to children aged three to four years under the government's scheme were put in stressful situations, guessing whether they'd be paid or not before the holiday season.

Wiltshire Council brought in a new payment system in November which had a few "teething issues" with some childminders being paid twice, late or not at all.

Those affected were not told that a new system was being introduced until it went wrong.

While the council claimed these problems would be ironed out in December and said it would be paying people one week early, many people still went unpaid in the run-up to Christmas.

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One childminder, who wished to remain anonymous, has run her business in Salisbury for 20 years and was paid eight days late with no explanation for why.

"It was incredibly stressful. What made it worse was some people got paid and others did not. I was questioning whether I'd be paid before Christmas," she said.

Salisbury Journal: Sally Ronchetti is worried about April when the majority of her income will be from Wiltshire Council.Sally Ronchetti is worried about April when the majority of her income will be from Wiltshire Council. (Image: Sally Ronchetti.)

Sally Ronchetti looks after three children under Wiltshire Council's funding scheme and was paid twice in November.

She told the Journal that she had to be disciplined with her money as she wouldn't be getting any more in December.

"They never told us they were doing a new payment system until it went wrong," Sally said.

Concern over new rules for 'free' childcare in April

Parents will be eligible for 15 hours of 'free' government-subsidised childcare for their two-year-olds from April 2024.

This change will make the anonymous Salisbury childminder "90 per cent reliant" on funding as she expects her to double the amount of government-funded children to six.

Feeling "out of control" and extremely worried about the "absolutely appalling" method to get paid, she said: "It puts you off working with the council. 

"Government paperwork is shocking and I know many childminders who want to give up because of the scheme. It is incredibly stressful and if you get it wrong you don’t get paid.

“Many are leaving before April. You can go and work at a supermarket and get paid the same without the stress."

The current 30 hours of 'free' childcare offered by the government is paying childminders below their hourly rate and causing them to invoice parents for nappies, meals and trips to make up for the lost money.

The childminder has seen friends walk away from the profession because of the scheme.

“The government promised all these free hours but there’s not enough childcare to provide it. It’s to encourage parents to go back to work but people are leaving in their floods. 

“The workforce is shrinking when the government desperately needs it to grow," she said.

Council blames stress on 'teething problems'

Andy Brown, deputy chief executive and corporate director for resources, said: "We have recently moved over to a new system which will make us much more efficient as a council and improve how we process transactions, among many other functions.

“As with any implementation of a new system it is common to experience teething issues, and we have worked hard to identify and limit those as much as possible."

Mr Brown said he's "confident" that payment issues are resolved and had made some one-off payments to help childminders.

"We apologise to any provider that has experienced payment issues and delays, and we have made the necessary changes to limit this type of issue from happening again as much as possible," he added.