Government feels pressure of child care sector over proposed regulatory reforms

The government is considering a u-turn on its plans to cease regulating child care for five- to eight-year-olds after coming under huge pressure from the sector.

Sure Start national director Naomi Eisenstadt admitted at the annual Sure Start conference last week that fierce criticism of the proposals in the child care bill consultation could force the government to back-track.

Although insisting the plans were about going for voluntary checks, not about “deregulating”, Eisenstadt said: “There have been very, very strong objections against doing this and there is a possibility we will rethink this. We don’t know yet.”

Under the proposals, out for consultation until October 7, while school-based child care would be inspected by Ofsted as part of the school inspection framework, non-school-based providers offering group child care to the over-fives would no longer be required to register. All early years provision from birth to the end of foundation stage would be required to be registered and inspected by Ofsted.

There has been widespread concern that any such change would expose five- to eight-year-olds to unnecessary risk. Currently, Ofsted regulates all providers offering group child care of more than two hours duration for children aged under eight.

Defending the proposal, Eisenstadt said CRB checks and insurance already provided imposing protection for these age groups being looked after in child care. She added that five- or six-year-olds were capable of talking to their parents about whether or not they liked their child care, while a two- or three-year-old was not.

But Gill Haynes, chief executive of the National Childminding Association, said the change would bring about an “extraordinary situation” given that all the child care reforms under Every Child Matters were bought in after the death of Victoria Climbie, who died from abuse aged eight. “Regulations should not depend on the linguistic capacity of children,” she said.

Appealing to the sector to stop the proposal, Haynes added: “We have a responsibility to say to government ‘don’t give us the job of doing this and then take away from us the tools we need to do it with’.”

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