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The Government has announced that childcare arrangements made between friends will no longer be legally required to be Ofsted registered and inspected. The Children's Minster, Dawn Primarolo said the rule change would be confirmed in April this year which will mean that friends who share the childcare of each other's children won't have to answer to Ofsted, as if they were professional childcare settings such as childminders or nurseries.
Ms Primarolo claimed she was pleased with the result as it ensured "hardworking parents are not penalised for supporting their friends with unpaid childcare."
The confusion arose when two policewomen, Leanne Shepherd and Lucy Jarrett from Buckinghamshire, who worked on a part time basis, looked after each other's children when they were not working. It was a friendly, non-financial arrangement which meant both women could work without worrying about the the costs of childcare. They simply shared the childcare. Ofsted were told about the arrangement and they decreed the women should register as childminders which included all the professional training, checks, inspections and guidelines that professional childminders have to go through.
This daft situation arose when a piece of ill-planned legislation was introduced in 2006 which required anyone looking after children for 'reward', excluding between 6pm and 2am, on more than 14 occasions a year, and who was not related to the children, were deemed to be offering childcare services and were therefore subject to childcare control. In this case, Ofsted interpreted the fact that by swapping childcare between themselves in order to allow them to return to work, the two police mothers in question were therefore gaining 'reward' and therefore were subject to the legislation. Whilst the 2006 Childcare Act is generally an important piece of legislation aimed at protecting children whilst in the custody of professional carers, it gave no credence to informal arrangements between friends.
The amendment to the Childcare Act 2006 will change the guidelines offered by Ofsted which will detail when childcare is deemed "formal" and thus within their remit.
The proposed changes were put to parents, child carers and children's organisations in a consultation last December 2009. The majority of those consulted replied in favour of the amendments. Public outcry and a petition on the No. 10 website made clear the people's feeling on the matter!
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