Childminders claim Truss barred them from her Twitter account

By Gabriella Jozwiak

| 05 February 2013

Up to ten childminders claim they have been blocked from following the Twitter account of childcare minister Elizabeth Truss.

Childminders say childcare minister Elizabeth Truss has blocked them from her Twitter account. Image: DfE

The early years professionals, who have all spoken out against government plans to relax ratios in childcare settings, said they noticed they were unable to follow her account two weeks ago.

One of the affected childminders, Penny Webb, said she frequently directed tweets towards Truss voicing her opinions or sending links to research she felt would be of interest to the minister.

But about two weeks ago, Webb noticed she was no longer receiving tweets from Truss’s Twitter account in her Twitter feed.

“I searched for her username and tried to click ‘follow’, which I thought was odd because I was already following, but it said I was blocked from following,” said Webb. “I can’t do anything in connection to her Twitter account now.”

Webb said she had never sent Truss any tweets that would be considered aggressive or personal, and believes Truss is deliberately blocking childcare professionals.

“She’s supposed to be professional as an MP and I’d expect her to listen to what people are saying, particularly because she’s making changes to our profession,” said Webb.

“I always thought that if enough people spoke up they would be listened to. But I get the impression she’s deliberately not listening to people who are not satisfied with her ideas.”

Webb, who set up a petition calling on the government to drop its plans to relax childcare ratio regulations, believes somebody is monitoring Truss’s account and targeting people for exclusion.

Webb claims that when she exchanged tweets with another blocked childminder, which was copied to Truss, a third childminder who responded to their tweet subsequently found she was no longer able to follow Truss’s account.

Beth Thomas, another childminder who claims to have been blocked, said she is planning to complain about the matter to her local MP, former children’s minister Tim Loughton.

“It’s not democratic,” said Thomas. “The whole point of having a democracy is that we can contact people in a position of authority to provide them with our opinions. The fact that she won’t allow us access to her makes me wonder what kind of a democracy this is?”

Thomas says she was contacted by other childminders a week ago, who asked her if she had been blocked.

She responded by tweeting: “I can still follow @trussliz, although after this tweet I’m not so sure.” Thomas says her access to Truss’s account was subsequently suspended.

Prior to this, her final tweet including Truss’s Twitter handle said: “Supposed to be studying today but distracted by @trussliz and her upcoming announcements. Wish I could focus but my future is in jeopardy.”

Another childcare professional who spoke to CYP Now, but wished to remain annonymous, urged childminders to check if their Twitter accounts had been barred, arguing that the number of early years professionals afffected could be even higher.

Following the complaints raised by childminders, the head of an early years organisation has discovered her Twitter account was also barred.
Denise Burke, director of United for All Ages and the Good Care Guide, found her access to Truss’ account had been blocked at the weekend.
“I'm astonished and annoyed that Liz Truss has decided to block me from following her on Twitter,” said Burke.
“It's quite obvious that the minister is just burying her head in the sand and not listening to those of us in the childcare sector who are speaking out against her misguided proposals to change ratios.”

A Department for Education spokesman responded to the allegations by saying Truss’s Twitter account was a personal matter.

He said Truss met regularly with childminders and other interested parties, and denied suggestions that her account was run by any other people on her behalf.

“Personal social networking accounts are matters for individual ministers," he said.

He added that Truss would “respond to all enquiries on this issue” she received by email.

The claims follow accusations published in the Observer at the weekend that staff at the DfE used Twitter to launch political attacks on opponents.

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