Apparently it’s now illegal to leave your child with friends for more than two hours unless they are Ofsted registered.

The BBC reports that two police officers have been investigated by Ofsted had an arrangement whereby they would look after each other’s children when on duty. It seems a sensible way to save on childcare…

But, of course, they weren’t Ofsted registered. Now I hate this sort of story because it provokes a Daily Mail ire in me (that it came from the Mail on Sunday doesn’t help). But the idea that friends can’t reciprocate babysitting arrangements without coming under the auspices of state regulation is – frankly – ridiculous.

The story doesn’t have the full background (I’d love to know why they neighbour reported the officer, since it doesn’t seem very neighbourly to me) so it’s difficult to comment on the specific case, but for Ofsted to blandly state “those who babysat for more than two hours at a time, or for more than 14 days per year, should be registered” is incredible.

It essentially means you can’t have friends look after your child so you can have an evening out or a day to yourselves.

We have somehow managed to evolve and survive as a species for hundreds of thousands of years with childcare being shared amongst family and friends – but now we need Ofsted to regulate?

Ofsted’s deadpan response that reciprocal arrangements can constitute babysitting for ‘reward’ and the minister’s half-hearted assurance that he is speaking to Ofsted “about the interpretation of the word ‘reward’ in this particular case” are depressing.

There’s no shock, no anger, about the case. No condemnation that public money, our money, is being spent employing people to investigate such cases. Instead just a banal offer to look into the case and explain why it was important to investigate police officers who were simply leaving their children in the care of a trusted friend.

Examples like this might be rare, but surely the minister should be stating categorically that he will be reversing the ridiculous interpretation and ensuring it never happens again, there is plenty of law to protect children without stopping parents taking and sharing responsibility. I make no apology for my Daily Mail ire, but this is the nanny state at its worse and exactly the sort of thing I hope the Conservatives will be reversing in office.

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