Is the state interfering too much in how we look after our kids?
Two police officers in England were told they'd broken the law by babysitting each other's children when they were working shifts. Ofsted said the recipricol arrangement contravened the Childcare Act because it lasted for longer than two hours a day, and constituted receiving "a reward". As a result, it said the women would have to be registered as childminders.
The Chief Executive of the Scottish Childminding Association, Maggie Simpson, told us on today's Morning Extra that the same thing could technically happen in Scotland. The piece of legislation may be different, but the definition of childcare is much the same. The main difference here is that the Care Commission regulates childminding rather than Ofsted.
The bottom line is that it's illegal for an unregistered person to look after children under 16 for "reward". However, reward isn't just a case of money changing hands. The supply of services or goods and, in some circumstances, reciprocal arrangements can also constitute reward. And it's the interpretation of "reward" that's precisely at issue in the English case, which Ofsted and the UK government are currently looking at.
What is clear is that people do not need to register if they are a close relative of the child (grandparents, siblings, aunts or uncles), or if they are working in the child's own home. Also, if the care is for less than two hours or it takes place on less than 14 days in a year, you are exempt. It's only where such arrangements are regular and for longer periods, then registration is usually required.
Many of you who look after children called and texted the programme with concerns and questions about whether you might fall foul of the law. Below, I've found answers to some of your questions and provided you with contacts of the organisations which can best advise you.
Scottish Childminding Association: 01786 445377 (10am to 4pm every Mon-Fri)
The Care Commission: 0845 603 0890
Your questions answered
Many of you texted the programme today with queries. I've asked those 'in the know' and these are the answers I got:
Q: My daughter is paid to babysit for one of your colleagues Graham. Is this wrong? (Joanni in Portsoy)
A: No, not if she's babysitting/nannying in the child's own home. This is considered to be the parent's responsiblity and it's fine for money to change hands without being registered.
Q: What happens if a kid goes on holiday with their pal and their pal's parents? (Graeme in Fife)
A: That's fine, although you could say there's a "reward" to the child involved here, there's no "reward" to the parent as such.
Q: So u can't host a kids party or take a group of friends kids to the beach, the cinema or a day out to a theme park?
A: Again that's fine, it's also a one-off event, not a regular arrangement.
Q: What will happen with pals having sleepovers? (mgt in Dornoch)
A: Sleepovers are fine as there's no "reward" involved.