Mind that child….

As one of those registered childminders who “see themselves as
professional childcare workers”, I would like to thank you very
much for including this article (“The bringing up baby blues”, 14
June) in your publication. It raises some vital points that I very
much hope Maggie Smith will take take on board as new head of
Ofsted’s Early Years Directorate.

I do not intend to put myself personally at risk by harming
children in my care, through the use of physical discipline or by
allowing people to smoke in close proximity to the children. I
would be in an untenable and vulnerable position if I did so. I
would be putting their physical and emotional well-being at

Parents who themselves smoke are generally aware of the risks it
poses to their children. Many opt to smoke outside, or when out of
the home. I can hardly believe that there would be any parent who
would wish a childminder to jeopardise their child’s health in this

Physical discipline is used less often today and by fewer
families. If Iwere to be approached to care for a child whose
parent wished them to be “smacked” the situation would have to be
sensitively dealt with.

I would explain why I could not smack their child under any
circumstances: because of the risk of injuring the child, because
of the insurance implications, because of confusion to other
children in my care who were not smacked, and so on. If the parents
did decide to use my services it would be hoped that over time they
could be tactfully steered towards more effective methods of
guiding their child.

I intend to continue in my chosen career in the future, but I am
apprehensive. It is to be hoped that after some initial challenges
life with Ofsted will settle down, provided they take proper notice
of the recommendations of the experts in home-based child care: the
National Child Minders Association.

Sarah Brown
Lechlade, Gloucestershire

Ofsted miss the point

Your feature on childminding (“The bringing up baby blues”, 14
June) highlighted the changes in September for the 1,000 staff
being transferred from local authorities under eight registration
units to Ofsted and in effect becoming employed homeworkers.
Clearly their new employer has not read Homeworking – Guidance for
Employers and Employees on Health and Safety, published by the
Health and Safety Executive.

No doubt Ofsted has counted up the savings it will make by not
providing offices, car parking, staff restaurants and so on. They
will be providing office equipment including, I assume, computers,
secure filing cabinets and other facilities to comply with data
protection legislation, presuming the regulatory officer’s (can
they please find a friendlier job title) home can fit it all in, of
course. And will Ofsted be paying for fast modem access, heating
and lighting, insurance and so on? By September will they have
carried out a risk assessment in respect of their employees and
their relatives, including children and friends who may visit the
home? They have special responsibility if their employee becomes
pregnant or has a young baby, and no doubt they will have provided
the HSE with the names and addresses of employees so inspections
may be carried out.

Ken Terry
Tonbridge, Kent

Smacking is not against human rights

Alison Taylor (Perspectives, 14 June) is incorrect to suggest
that the European Convention on Human Rights deems any form of
physical chastisement “a breach of children’s rights”. The truth is
it does not so much as mention either smacking or children’s

Article three of the convention, drafted in the wake of the
second world war, prohibits “inhuman or degrading treatment or
punishment” – a far cry from moderate and reasonable physical
correction administered by a parent or by a childminder with
parental consent. Indeed, the European Court of Human Rights has
consistently ruled that “a particular level of severity” must be
reached for a punishment to breach the convention.

If childminding is a form of “substitute parenting”, it is
surely important that parents are free to choose a parenting style
with which they are comfortable and which is consistent with their

Some parents will have strong feelings either for or against
smacking just as they do on the place that television viewing has
in the childminder’s home, the type of music that may be played,
the range of books or toys that are available and so on.

In framing its national standards for childminding, the
government has rightly chosen to leave decisions about matters of
parenting style in the hands of those to whom they belong – the

Norman Wells
Family Education Trust

High standards won us adoption bid

Your article “Outside chance” (21 June) seems to express
surprise at Norwood Ravenswood’s appointment as preferred bidder to
run the adoption register. I wish to take this opportunity to
explain why we believe we were successful in our bid.

Norwood Ravenswood is a leading child and family services
organisation with a history spanning well over 200 years, with
recognised expertise in the provision of specialist services for
children. We currently employ more than 1,000 people and operate an
annual budget of over £24m.

We run the only Jewish adoption society in the UK and Europe.
The success of this agency and the importance that the Jewish
community places on family values and children’s rights, will
inform our vision for the partnership with the Department of Health
and National Assembly for Wales.

Our appointment as preferred bidder is a natural fit with our
services, allowing us to make a contribution, on a national scale,
to improve the quality of the lives of children throughout England
and Wales.

John Hutton, the then health minister, emphasised that the bid
the organisation submitted was “particularly strong and met all the
necessary requirements”. We see this announcement as a tribute to
the high standards of our staff and our services.

Ronit Shebson
Marketing and communications officer
Norwood Ravenswood

Treatment of asylum seekers is “a disgrace”

The national dispersal scheme for asylum seekers (“In search of
a better life”, 21 June) is housing-led: people are dispersed to
areas where there is a surfeit of housing. Where there is a surfeit
of housing there is a dearth of employment and much poverty and

Here in the North East much of the accommodation asylum seekers
are forced to live in is bleak, poorly equipped, badly furnished
and would otherwise be empty. Interpreting services here are
woefully inadequate. Solicitors experienced in immigration law are
swamped with work and some asylum seekers are unable to get
adequate legal representation in preparing their case. Health,
education and social services workers have inadequate training and
resources for meeting the needs of asylum seekers. The voucher
scheme is stigmatising and asylum seekers are receiving only 70 per
cent of income support.

The poverty, hardship and marginalisation experienced by asylum
seekers in the UK is a disgrace. Asylum seekers are being harassed
at home, in the street, at college and in school. Racist violence
is commonplace in their lives. The Home Office is not a benevolent
agency seeking to help those fleeing war, torture, rape and death.
Social workers must campaign to end forced dispersal and the
voucher scheme, challenge racist rhetoric about asylum seekers and
ensure that we do not fall into the trap of thinking dispersal is
working because those who are running dispersal schemes say so.

Lin Harwood
North East Campaign for Asylum Rights

Care is not a business

One of the most significant and, for local authorities providing
residential care for the elderly, devastating events of the
mid-1990s was the edict from the then Department of the Environment
that in future local authorities would no longer be under a duty to
provide care under the terms of the National Assistance Act 1948,
part three.

This came at a time when, to quote your article (In Focus, 7
June) the “Thatcherite boom” in private care was being pressed
forward, and followed years of inadequate funding and lack of
investment in local authority homes.

Of course, there must have been a number of private homes
established with trained and committed staff and managers with a
desire to maintain high standards of care. But by the same token a
number almost certainly were not, with no obvious signs of
experience, training or ability to provide care, who simply entered
the market as entrepreneurs wishing to make a reasonable financial
return on an investment.

Local authority homes have a long tradition of committed care
from trained staff with internal inspections and control from
managers to ensure high standards, often set against a background
of dwindling investment in the homes.

The future must build on the expertise and commitment of first
class local authority staff as well as those in the private

B W Cooper

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