Amid concerns that the government is seeking to deregulate and cut costs in the childcare sector, eight early years bodies have launched a campaign calling for a UK-wide regulatory framework.
Regulation Matters: Working for the Welfare of Children, calls on the government to place all childcarers under one regulatory umbrella of “home childcare”, so that nannies, au pairs and other home-based providers have to meet the same registration standards as childminders.
“We are aware the government is possibly looking at deregulation rather than regulation, and we want to highlight this being an error,” said Tricia Pritchard, senior professional officer at the union Voice, which is chairing the campaign.
“If we deregulate, the group currently unregistered becomes bigger. This is a sector where we believe the children being cared for in their own homes are particularly vulnerable.”
Pritchard said the campaign group, comprised of The Association of Nanny Agencies, the British Association of Professional Nannies, Chiltern College, Morton Michel, Nannytax, Norland College, The Recruitment & Employment Confederation and Voice, wanted to meet with ministers to discuss regulatory options.
“If the government is not going to regulate – because they see regulation as a costly exercise – would they assist the industry in formulating a robust and self-regulatory framework? We want to persuade the government that this is a safeguarding issue,” she said.
The National Children’s Bureau (NCB) has pledged its support to the campaign and echoed concerns about deregulation. But Sue Owen, director of programmes at NCB, suggested the recent ministerial reshuffle meant the government’s approach to deregulation is unclear.
“We’d be very concerned about deregulation but I think we have to wait and see what the government proposes because we haven’t heard anything from them,” she said.
“Our research into childminding has shown the importance of robust registration and inspection to ensure quality for young children and their families. However, we have also responded to government consultations by suggesting ways in which the current registration process could be made even more effective and efficient, for instance, by offering initial registration advice through local childminding networks.”
The National Childminding Association (NCMA) also backed the campaign.
"We are supporting the campaign because we agree that registration is really important across the sector. At its heart, childcare is about providing quality learning opportunities and ensuring children are safeguarded. Registration helps achieve this,” said Amanda Carmichael, director of membership at NCMA.
Under current regulations, childminders must register with Ofsted on either the early years or childcare register, and are subjected to certain checks. But other forms of childcarers are exempt from registration; for example, if care is provided for a child for less than two hours a day.