Monday, 28 September 2009

Childcare Kerfuffle

Ofsted (UK education and children’s services regulator) whipped up a frenzy this morning when it accused two police officers of acting illegally for babysitting each other’s children. The two “criminals” in question work one full-time role through job-share and babysit each other’s children when the other is working. Ofsted says the women should legally be registered as childminders (who pay an annual fee to Ofsted and must complete training) as their arrangement lasts for longer than 2 hours a day and results in each woman receiving “a reward,” i.e. free child care.

Is it just me or does this over-literal interpretation of the law defy logic and wreak of the nanny state run wild? Costs of child care are astronomical, around £40-50/day for a nursery and £4-5.50/hour for childminders in my area, and if you are fortunate enough to be able to make a mutually advantageous reciprocal babysitting arrangement with a trusted friend and colleague, why shouldn’t you be able to?

Good on Ofsted for taking its responsibility to regulate UK childcare for kids under 8 seriously but rulings like this open up a regulatory can of worms that is difficult to enforce, aggravates the masses and increases inconvenience and financial pressure for the parents in question.

Sure, unregistered friends who also act as babysitters may not have the same first aid qualifications, insurances, etc in place that a childminder will, but its unlikely that close relatives (who do not have to register as childminders for providing similar babysitting services) do. This is a risk that working parents take when arranging their child care and the litigious issues that may arise as a result are, in my opinion, outside of Ofsted’s remit. Its attempt to class childcare as a “reward” in lieu of payment looks like a feeble attempt to drive up its membership fees. Plus, in the wake of Baby P and social services scrutiny, such a ruling only serves to divert its attention into yet another area that doesn’t warrant it’s time and energy.
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