The big news around Britain in the last 24 hours has been a crack-down by Ofsted, the government department that looks out for kids, on “reciprocal childcare agreements” or people trading off watching each others’ kids when two mothers both are working part-time. Better to quote the article to explain:
England’s Children’s Minister is reviewing the case of two police officers told they were breaking the law, caring for each other’s children.
Ofsted said the arrangement contravened the Childcare Act because it lasted for longer than two hours a day, and constituted receiving “a reward”.
It said the women would have to be registered as childminders.
Now this rankles for several reasons. It comes immediately on the heels of the furore over whether people would have to be registered in the “vetting and barring” scheme meant to prevent pedophiles from having access to children–the official policy came down that the rules applied to people like cub scout carpool drivers, thus causing most parents to have to be registered if they did anything other than ferry their own brood around town. Now we have a similar issue with trading off babysitting, where a person would be required to be registered as a “childminder” and have a criminal background check. More importantly, it defies logic by not allowing parents to choose what is best for their own children, but to leave this to the government.
All of these recent perhaps well-meaning but overzealous laws leave me mighty glad that I don’t have children, and tending towards a view of staying away from people who have them–the legal requirements associated with being in the same car or the same room are clearly becoming too stringent. But it does sort of refine my view of the phrase “nanny state” when the government starts trying to tell you that you cannot ask a friend to watch your kids or drive them around without government interference, and the risk that your friend is breaking a completely over-the-top interpretation of the law. Or perhaps we’ve got a set of lawmakers, and laws, who are determined to keep women in the home minding their own children and not out running the country. Just saying.
And yes, I said interpretation, the word this morning is that the government might be investigating the particular wording that caused Ofsted to “bust” these perps (ironically, both female COPS) for their shared childcare arrangement. There’s even a petition that you can sign online if you’re a Brit by birth or residence, the link is here in case you’re interested.
Update: further reading on the BBC identifies a tantalizing piece of information as concerns Ofsted’s motivations for policing this issue:
Got it. We now have a situation that perfectly parallels the heavy-handed enforcement of the TV license rules, except now it’s for your kids. Maybe that’s the next step, a required childbearing license?