Archive for September, 2009

Ofsted stops working parents from sharing childcare

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Parents are calling for a change in the law following Ofsted’s ban on two mothers from sharing free childcare by taking it in turns to look after each other’s children. More than 1,000 people have signed a petition at the Number 10 website, calling for a change of the meaning of ‘reward’ to ‘money and gifts’ in the Childcare Act to allow reciprocal childcare arrangements.

The two mothers, who wish to remain anonymous, work for the same company and have daughters the same age. When their children were a year old the women decided to return to work part-time in a job share. They agreed that while one was working, the other would look after both children.

However, Ofsted was alerted and banned the arrangement. A spokesperson said, ‘The law sets out that childminding requires registration where a person cares for one or more children for reward and at least one child attends for more than two hours in any one day. Reward is not just a case of money changing hands. The supply of services or goods and in some circumstances reciprocal arrangements can also constitute reward’.

However now Ofsted inspectors in England have been told by ministers to show “common sense” in interpreting laws on friends helping each other with childcare. A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said childcare rules were not intended to “interfere in informal arrangements”.

Ministers are trying to clear up confusion over the regulations in England covering parents who help each other with childcare and babysitting. But so far there is no new guidance on the regulations introduced in 2006, which appear to require compulsory registration for parents who have a regular after-school arrangement for looking after each others’ children.

Penelope Leach says UK childcare fails to offer parents choice

Friday, September 4th, 2009

Childcare expert Penelope Leach has criticised MPs for making decisions on childcare and families when they do not fully understand the reality of life for today’s parents.Speaking at the Edinburgh Book Festival last week, Dr Leach said that problems with the options currently available to parents stemmed from the fact that policymakers have never experienced the same problems themselves.

She said parents need more choice.Dr Leach’s latest book, Child Care Today (Nursery World Reviews: For Your Shelf, 22 April), argues that the childcare system in Britain should be based on that of other countries, such as France, where new mothers are given a monthly payment to use as a salary or pay for childcare while they return to work.‘Hardly any politicians, academics or policymakers find it necessary to leave their own infants in the first few months in less than high-quality childcare. Quite a lot of them have no idea what it would be like to have no other choice,’ she said.

Dr Leach added that, while politicians can afford to pay for nannies or support their partners to stay at home with children, single parents are often forced to take any job they can or face losing benefits.She said, ‘I feel strongly that people care for children better when they are able to do it in the way they choose. A lot of people are forced to go back to work when they would prefer to stay at home, and a lot of mothers would like to work but cannot find a job that is flexible. What works for one parent does not necessarily work for another.’

She added, ‘Where childcare is working best is where it is funded by taxation, in the same way education is. You can still have a private system, or a voluntary sector, but it should be like a health service, available to all in times of need.’ 

What do you think? Do you think we should have fully funded childcare in Britain?