Written by: Cally Worden
Finding a childminder you like and trust can be tricky, so if you have a good friend who is able to take care of your kids it can seem like the perfect solution. For stay-at-home parents it can be a great way to help friends out and even earn a little cash on the side. But beware – if your casual kiddie-care arrangement turns into something more regular, then you may become subject to strict government legislation that ups the ante in terms of your responsibilities.
What is the Law?
The rules stem from Labour’s 2006 Childcare Act, and were enshrined in law in 2008. They state that adults looking after someone else’s children for more than two hours in one day for more than fourteen days in one year, irrespective of how that time is divided up, must register with Ofsted. This registration immediately obliges adults to undergo a formal check through the Criminal Records Bureau, learn first aid, and also take a course in Childcare. They must also follow Labour’s “Nappy Curriculum” for the under-5’s. Ofsted have the right to visit the home of the carer to inspect it for safety standards and general suitability.
How it Works in Practice
In theory, what could start as a simple exercise in one parent looking after another’s kids before and after school so they can get to work, could mushroom into an unmanageable and ridiculously burdensome set of rules that cause the whole arrangement to fail. It’s possible that circumstances could even force the working parent to quit their job because alternative childcare arrangements are prohibitively expensive.
The rules do not apply where a child is being cared for in their own home, or where the carer is a close family member, such as a grandparent, sibling, aunty or uncle. A recent case to which the legislation was successfully applied highlights how frustrating the new rules can be. Two mothers who had children of the same age organised a job share arrangement, whereby they each worked two-and-a-half days each week, and took care of the other’s child for the remainder. This enterprising and highly creative solution was brought to an abrupt halt by Ofsted, whose challenge to the arrangements under the new rules was upheld. The mothers were banned from continuing.
Time for Some Common Sense
I think every parent would agree that it is essential to ensure your child is being cared for by someone who is caring and capable, but this kind of legislation seems almost designed to make it difficult for parents to assert control over their general childcare arrangements. It also appears to question parental judgement. As a parent you understand the risks associated with leaving your child with another person, whoever they may be, but in selecting a family member or trusted friend to look after your kids you are making an informed choice based on what you know about that person and their life – that is far more valuable than any Ofsted inspection can even be.
For childminders who care for the kids of people that are strangers, the obligation of registration is essential. It would be foolish to leave your child in the care of an individual who you did not know and who had no way of proving their competence and reliability. Perhaps it’s time for a rethink of the rules – the government should surely seek input from parents before implementing this kind of legislation in the future.