Mums have been shocked to learn that arranging with a friend to look after each other’s children as a friendly childcare agreement could land you in court.
This follows the revelation that two policewomen were being investigated as they’d decided to look after each other’s children when the other was at work so that they could job share.
It sounds like a very sensible solution. However, Ofsted rules state that if one person who is not related to a second person provides childcare for their child outside the home for more than 2 hours a day and in return receives a ‘reward’, this childcarer must legally become a registered childminder.
The problem comes with the definition of ‘reward’. Theoretically, this could mean something as small as a box of chocolates or a drink. In the case of the two policewomen, the reward was deemed to be the reciprocal childcare agreement. Ofsted claims that although the mums never exchanged any money, the fact both were able to enjoy free childcare for their daughters was judged to be a reward.
Becoming a registered childminder is a complicated process. You need to undertake training, potentially modify your home and comply with all the rules and regulations of being a registered childminder, including being inspected by Ofsted.
An Ofsted spokesperson said, “The law sets out that childminding requires registration where a person cares for one or more children for reward and at least one child attends for more than two hours in any one day. Reward is not just a case of money changing hands. The supply of services or goods and in some circumstances reciprocal arrangements can also constitute reward.”
So could you be breaking the law?
Do you regularly swap childcare with a friend? Ofsted states that most mums in this situation wouldn’t need to register as childminders as there are exemptions to the rules.
- If you provide your childcare at the home of the child you are looking after, then Ofsted registration is not required, and there are no restrictions.
- If the childcare you’re providing is for less than 2 hours a day or no more than 14 days of childcare per year from a specific address. (This equates to nearly 3 weeks if you are looking at weekday childcare).
- If you provide childcare between the hours of 6pm to 2am.
- If you only care for a child or children aged under 8 whom you are related to. A relative means a grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother or sister of a child (or half-brother or sister) or someone you are related to through marriage or civil partnership.
- If the children concerned are older than 8 years old, then there are no restrictions.
See the full details of Ofsted’s rules.