As a child, after school I remember playing out and only going home to eat and go to bed. Sometimes my friend would come in for tea, sometimes she would go to someone else’s house – we thought little of it.

Looking back now I can see it was because her mum was a single parent, almost certainly suffering from mental health issues and the community just rallied round, without any fuss to make sure she and her children were supported.

It is hard to see how that would happen these days really, when the sense of community in some areas has all but gone.

The take up of the two-year-old offer of funded early childhood education and care (ECEC) for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children including those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) could be the modern equivalent, especially if it is offered by childminders.

The Study of Early Education and Development (SEED) report(July 17) refers to better outcomes for children who benefit from this, but little is said about the benefit to parents.

Childminders are in a unique position of being able to build a strong one-to-one relationship with a parent in a home-based environment, enabling them to model parenting, provide support and advise as well as giving some respite to parents who just need a break to recharge.

This one-to-one support may be exactly what a parent needs, especially if they feel isolated or do not feel confident to walk into a large nursery or a school setting.

For some childminders the thought of offering funded places for two-year olds may cause some anxieties as they may be worried about meeting their needs, or the impact it will have on their other children in terms of ratios.

The Childminders’ views on funded early education report(Jan 2017) states that the majority of childminders reported they had never provided childcare for a child with SEND, nor had they ever been approached by a parent in this regard.

This suggests that parents aren’t really aware that this is an option. This is such a missed opportunity and more needs to be done to promote the role of childminders, so parents have real choice.

If you are a childminder considering offering ECEC funded places and need support with meeting the needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged children the Childminder Professional Development Programme from Achievement for All, developed in partnership with PACEY, can help you.

It focuses on how to meet the needs of the child, build strong partnerships with parents and to act as an advocate for the child and family in wider professional partnerships. It just might be the lifeline some parents need.