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.