Minister orders babysitting ban review

By Liz Stephens

Children’s minister Vernon Coaker has ordered a review of the Childcare Act after two mothers were told that looking after each other’s children was illegal.

The women – both police officers – were told by Ofsted that their childcare arrangements were in breach of the law because the reciprocal deal they had to look after each other’s children constituted “a reward”.

They were also told they were guilty of breaching the Act because they often looked after each other’s children for more than two hours a day and thus had to be registered as childminders.

Mr Coaker said he would be asking Ofsted to review the controversial new law to make sure it did not “penalise hard-working families”.

“My department is speaking to Ofsted about the interpretation of the word ‘reward’ in this particular case,” he said.

Speaking to the BBC this morning, Lucy Jarrett, a detective constable with Thames Valley police, expressed her dismay at the situation.

“To think that they [Ofsted] would waste their time and effort on innocent people who are trying to provide for their families by returning to the workplace… Surely their time and effort would be better placed elsewhere.”

A spokesman for Thames Valley Police Federation, Andy Viney, told the BBC: “They just want to return to work after having children and have found that the system is working totally against them.”

However, Ofsted was adamant this morning that the two women were breaking the law and exemptions for such childcare arrangements only applied to close relatives.

“Generally, mothers who look after each other’s children are not providing childminding for which registration is required, as exemptions apply to them – for example because the care is for less than two hours or it takes place on less than 14 days in a year.

“Where such arrangements are regular and for longer periods, then registration is usually required.”

Registering as a childminder involves undergoing a criminal records check, although as serving police officers both women will have already undergone such checks.