New Registered Childminders in Mull

Helen McInnes (45) and Karen Fraser (46) are new childminders living and working in Tobermory, Isle of Mull.

After both working in early years education including nurseries for most of their careers, both decided to take the plunge and become registered childminders on the Island, helped along by the package of support. Both are now the only registered childminders on the Island.

Helen’s cousin, Kayleigh MacPhail lives in Ardnamurchan on the mainland and was returning to work as a PE teacher at Mull High School after having her daughter, Rhona. This sparked Helen’s decision to become a registered childminder and was perfect timing in order to be able to provide childcare. Rhona and Kayleigh take the 30-minute ferry journey from Ardnamurchan every day, which means Kayleigh is able to work on the Island. It’s this provision of, and access to, high-quality childcare which is so crucial for Island communities in enabling people to live and work and contribute to their local economy.

Helen knew there was also high demand from other families for local childcare – word quickly spread that her and Karen were working towards becoming registered childminders and both were soon inundated with requests for places! After registration with the Care Inspectorate was complete, Helen and Karen opened their childminding businesses in March 2023.

Helen said: “It was a bit leap to set up my own business, but I think that because Karen and I were going through it at the same time, we were able to be a huge support to each other. We’re providing high quality, professional childcare for families on the Island who are doing a mix of jobs. From teachers, architects, farmers – and two of the parents who use my service own and run the Tobermory Fish Company. Being able to have access to reliable, high-quality childcare is such an important aspect in enabling people who live here to work.

“I do sometimes get frustrated as I think people often assume childminders are ‘babysitting’ – we’re professional, registered childcare providers operating our own businesses from home and are able to provide bespoke one-to-one care for children that’s just not possible to replicate in larger settings. It’s hard work because childminders are generally sole practitioners running their own business but it’s so rewarding. I love being able to watch the children grow and thrive – it’s is such a privilege.”

“I have two grown up children and it’s so nice to have younger children coming to the house they’ve become part of our extended family and my own two love having the wee ones around too!”

Becoming registered childminders at the same time has meant that Karen & Helen are able enjoy to taking part in local activities and groups together with their mindees. They go to the beach and go for walks for learning and play opportunities including STEM activities outdoors and visit the aquarium on Mull regularly!

Karen’s has lived on Mull all of her life and her experience and background working in ELC meant that she knew that parents were crying out for local, high-quality childcare and that there knew there would be demand on the Island for places. Karen said: “Some children can become overwhelmed in larger childcare settings and the brilliant thing about childminding is that it provides the opportunity for one-to-one care in a smaller setting, where a mix of ages can learn and play together, which can really support a child’s confidence and development.”

Both Karen and Helen were apprehensive about running their own business but attended various information sessions delivered by SCMA as part of the childminder recruitment pilot which provide practical support, guidance and reassurance.

Karen said: “My favourite thing about being a childminder is welcoming the children into my home and creating a really nurturing environment. We do also spend a lot of time outdoors, we have a fantastic ‘playground’ on our doorstep so there is a huge outdoor focus to our day with the children. I love how the children are all different and it’s so rewarding being able to play an active part in their development. I would recommend anyone thinking about becoming a childminder to do it. It’s hard work but is the most rewarding job.

“Several of the parents I provide childcare are new to the Island and it has provided a really great opportunity to get to know other families and welcome them to Mull, I love that my childminding service is helping them settle here.” Grace works at the Aquarium on the Island said: “Karen was highly recommended by people in the community as caring and experienced childminder. Having a childminder has allowed me and my partner to work during the week and still have family time instead of rotating childcare between us, we’re so grateful we found someone as great as Karen to care for our child.”

Lauren is a Whale & Dolphin Researcher based on Mull: “We moved to Mull for my job before having Reuben, so we have no family nearby who can support us with childcare. If there was no childminding available, I would probably have had to leave my job and the Island. Having Karen as our childminder has enabled us to continue to live and work her and to bring our son up within this community, it’s been life changing.”

For more information and FAQs on becoming a childminder through the Programme for Scotland’s Childminding Future visit: