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Childcare: Have the inspectorates gone mad?

Have you looked after someone else's child for more than two hours a day? You could be breaking the law...

Published on September 29th 2009.

Childcare: Have the inspectorates gone mad?
Yes: - 72%
No: - 28%

The Government is to review the meaning of childcare for 'reward' in the Childcare Act 2006 following Ofsted's ban on two working mothers from taking turns to look after each other's children.

The mothers in question are detective constables Leanne Shepherd from Milton Keynes and Lucy Jarrett from Birmingham, who work for Thames Valley Police. And the nature of their lawlessness? They looked after each others' children.

The close friends' private arrangement allowed them both to return to part-time jobs. However, they were reported to the education watchdog Ofsted who found their informal deal broke the law.

No money changed hands in the arrangement but according to Ofsted,' the supply of services or goods and, in some cases, reciprocal arrangements can also constitute reward' and 'a person must be registered as a childminder if care is provided for more than two hours a day or takes place for more than 14 days a year.'

What may seem like a harmless and convenient babysitting arrangement is in the eyes of the law illegal, unregistered childminding. Totally unaware of this and keen to return to work, this blanket system, there to protect children and parents, appears to be hindering these two families from earning their daily bread.

The Minister for Children, Schools and Families Vernon Coaker said the Childcare Act 2006 was in place "to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all children" but the government needed to make sure it did not "penalise hard-working families".

He added: “My department is speaking to Ofsted about the interpretation of the word 'reward' in this particular case.”

Photo by memoossa

But whilst this case may have forced Ofsted to go back to the drawing board – it is two police women after all – this story is only a small part of a bigger issue. There are many instances of the fine line between necessary child protection and a system which punishes innocent acts of care.

These even extend into sports and games where parents have to jump through hoops before being allowed to innocently coach their children and their children’s friends. Thus a criminal records check (CRB check) has to be made on helpful amateurs who are usually related as parents to members of the football, cricket, rugby teams they manage. At the same time the managers have often known each other for years.

The question is, are we allowing government too much control over our personal relations? Are we guilty, through fear of crime of failing to trust each other and our instincts? After all, over the decades actual instances of child abuse have scarcely risen, and most of the abuse lies within the family.

Do we need to ask ourselves whether ‘worry’ is getting in the way of people interacting in perfectly normal ways over their own activities and their children’s? Should Ofsted be told they are plain wrong in this interpretation?

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25 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

The Whalley RangerSeptember 29th 2009.

Is the world such a bad place? Let's see. When you fly out from Manchester airport, you now can not just purchase purfume @ 'duty free', but - wait for it - a brand new 'child tracking device'! This is presumeably targetted at families on their way to Portugal? A sign of our times? I know a couple from Leigh, whose eight (!) year old daughter is too scared to walk to the newsagent on her own - no wonder, her parents have overprotected her from birth, now this kid is clearliy not fit for life... So this is where we are heading? The government seems to play into the hands of these parents by suggesting and passing all sorts of weird laws and guidelines regarding our relationship with children. Gone are times when you could just play hide and seek in the streets and get a good beating when you misbehaved. In my opinion, all the other issues not mentioned here are clearly overrated...

east lancsSeptember 29th 2009.

I looked after some kids for a few hours, but then the police found me.

emma graceSeptember 29th 2009.

Very sad sign of our times, and it's a shame that we are having to go to these measures to protect our children. Have to say though, if it's going to prevent the Ian Huntleys of this world being placed in positions of trust and getting their hands on innocent children, then I'm all for it. Regrettably.

smittySeptember 29th 2009.

Emma, the problem is there's no evidence to suggest that these kinds of measures would protect people from the Ian Huntleys of this world. I always tell my mother, when she expresses concern about paedophiles (I'm afraid to say that she often reads the Daily Mail and therefore thinks they are on every corner) getting their clutches into her grandson, my nephew, that the most likely person to abuse him would be me as I am a close male relative. Now before you all come round my house with pitchforks and torches, I am not - of course - a child molester. But my point is that in the vast majority of cases abusers are family members. Then it is people who are accepted into the family in a position of trust. Then it is people who are in a position of responsibility for the child and who can then exploit that responsibility. And usually have a clean criminal record because they have got away with it for years. Paedophiles are manipulative b******s who know how to work a child and know how to work a family. It is rarely a "stranger danger". Educating kids about abuse is to my mind much more important than creating a bureaucracy that will probably achieve nothing. If the same amount of cash was poured into educating kids, so that they were aware of what abuse is (obv without going into detail), and what to do about it if they are being abused, then I suspect there'd be fewer victims. Instead we create red tape. It's the British Way.

CasSeptember 29th 2009.

I think the root of all this is in the phrase 'childcare for reward'. Gordon Brown has seen that this is a more widespread issue than he thought, what with granparents looking after children and friends looking after eachother's. This is a prime opportunity to tax a benefit in kind. So he needs to regulate it first.

emma graceSeptember 29th 2009.

Sorry, just to clarify, I was originally referring to professionals who are responsible for children; teachers, social workers, professional nannys/au pairs and the like. Not family members and friends...I should have been more clear. I'm not sure how nana would feel being told she couldn't babysit her grandchild until her CRB had come through. In fact I do, she'd be devastated. But at the same time, a good friend of mine has just started teacher training. She has done a weeks placement in a primary school with no CRB. My friend is no paedophile I can assure you, but how does the school know that without a CRB? They don't, and that's the danger of NOT CRB checking everyone.

Chris MorrisSeptember 29th 2009.

Sounds like a load of old nonce sense!

Dr FoxSeptember 29th 2009.

Paedophiles have more genes in common with crabs than they do with you and me... now that is scientific fact — there's no real evidence for it — but it is scientific fact!

BlackwoodSeptember 29th 2009.

But internet paedophiles can make computer keyboards emit noxious fumes in order to subdue children!?!

DescartesSeptember 29th 2009.

It really isn't though Emma, you're kidding yourself if you think CRB checks make kids more safe.

JinkiesSeptember 29th 2009.

For those that don't remember, Ian Hunty *did* have a CRB check before starting at the school, but it failed to bring up anything that showed he might be a danger to children.

AnonymousSeptember 29th 2009.

Huntley also didn't work at the school the girls attended, he worked at a college. His girlfriend did teach at their school though, and he came into contact with them because they were sad she was leaving. A CRB check would not have stopped that, unless it checked the person and those that they lived with.

emma graceSeptember 29th 2009.

Ok so forgetting Ian Huntley for a minute and thinking generally, if you're saying that CRB's are fundamentally useless, then how else do we check the people who are working with children? It might not be a perfect method, but surely it's better than nothing?!

johnthebriefSeptember 29th 2009.

emma grace - why do we need to check everyone. Can't we leave it up to schools, clubs etc to form their own view of what is reasonably necessary. Why do we have to impose this hysterical over-reaction on everyone?

mark mSeptember 29th 2009.

Having been through the process of CRB myself it is only as good as the informatiuon that you give it regarding your address/previous address etc. very much not a foolproof system

ADSeptember 29th 2009.

I suspect that the main benefit of CRB is that it will help with fingerpointing once something terrible has happened. Sad fact is sensationalist stories about peophiles sell tabloid newspapers, so a big element of the press like us to think that the world is more dangerous than it is as it helps their profits, and if a story sells papers then looking like your doing something about the problem will win votes - so politicians overlegislate in ways that are unnecessary overbearing and unfair, as in the case of the two police officers.

JinkiesSeptember 29th 2009.

Doesn't it cost £40 to get one done? Sounds like a nice money marker to me, no wonder council's are well up for it.

AnonymousSeptember 29th 2009.

Do any of the ranters on here have actual experience of child or elder abuse either as victims perpetrators or people who have to deal with it? By the way it is not about the CRB buy v&b agency and the cost is £64 for life for the employed/self employed and free for volunteers (except school governors)

AnonymousSeptember 29th 2009.

For life? Eh? So you could get one when you've done nothing, and keep it for life no matter what?

AnonymousSeptember 29th 2009.

I suffered abuse for years by a stepfather, and a cousin 's child was also abused for years by her father. CRB's needed for families as well!!!!!

rosieSeptember 29th 2009.

CRB's don't tell you who's a criminal, just who's been convicted. As the case in Plymouth shows (the nursery employee who has just pleaded guilty to child abuse/distribution of images charges) they can give a false positive result- our kids are safe with so-and-so as they aren't a convicted peadophile.

emma graceSeptember 29th 2009.

All points taken into account, but...www.thisislondon.co.uk/…/ailed-safety-checks.do…. They aren't perfect and obviously new and more effective checking methods need to be introducts, but in the meantime, CRB's cannot be disregarded.

emma graceSeptember 29th 2009.

*introduced*. Not quite sure what happened there!

AnonymousSeptember 29th 2009.

re the V&B Yes but anyone who employs you as a volunteer or employee in the listed jobs must ask for you updated record. And it's not just about sex but all sorts of abuse of vulnerable people. More sinister it contains soft information held e.g by the police as 'intellegence'... a blackmailers charter?

Simon BeltSeptember 29th 2009.

Family policy increasingly focuses on the need to protect children from the failings of parents, who could either pose a danger to their children, or simply not know what they’re doing. But some parents like Jennie Bristow have begun to express concerns about the idea that they’re hopeless and don’t try hard enough. In her book Standing up to Supernanny Jennie argues that the professionalisation of parenting undermines the authority of parents, and inhibits the spontaneous loving relationships with parents, and other adults, that children need in order to flourish. Jennie says "In many ways, the problem is that we try too hard at being parents - we're too diligent, too conscientious, too hopeful of great outcomes and clear rewards, to the point where we lose ourselves in trying to provide some kind of professional service to our children. This doesn't help children, and for parents it's a disaster zone, increasing our insecurity and diminishing our authority over our kids."Jennie Bristow will be speaking on this with Professor Heather Piper at the next Manchester Salon on Wed 14 Oct at Blackwell University Bookshop, Manchester - tickets £5 on 0161 274 3331.

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