Babysitting friends told they’re breaking the law


Two friends were told they were breaking the law by caring for each other’s children.

According to Ofsted inspectors the pair, who are both police officers, contravened the Childcare Act 2006, as they were looking after each other’s children for periods of more than 2 hours per day but had not registered in the early years register as early years childminders.

However, following a minister ordered review of the case and the Childcare Act, parents and friends who exchange childcare will not be scrutinised. Ed Balls, the Children’s Secretary, told Ofsted’s chief inspector that reciprocal childcare arrangements should no longer be treated as childminding or be subject to inspections. He will also make changes to the law to "clarify" the situation for parents who share childcare.

The intention of the Childcare Act is to regulate childcare provision to improve and safeguard the well being of young children. It was brought about in part due to the wide spread public concern about child protection, following the much-publicised tragic death of Victoria Climbié, and other children whose names have become synonymous with horrific abuse. It is likely to be cast further into media’s attention in light of the Little Ted’s Nursery case.

Changes to the law in this area are likely to have a wider impact, beyond babysitting, and might, for example, have an effect in school where parents volunteer to assist in the classroom or supervise in the playground. Many and various legal challenges are likely to be brought before the courts as the changes are interpreted in practice.

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