Monday, 28 September 2009

With a jerk of the knee...

With a jerk of the knee the cycle is complete. Today’s news contains a perfect example of the modern world’s most infuriating malady. The knee-jerk cycle. The story so far: Two police officers agreed to look after each other’s children while they were on shift, thus saving each other £300 pounds a month. Ofsted says they’re breaking the law because it’s more than two hours at a time and the arrangement is for more than 14 days a year. They could now be prosecuted. Read the full story here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8277378.stm


The story in itself is not a new one. Charles Dickens was the one who coined the phrase “The law is an Ass” and it stands today. The righteous indignation and calls for the heads of the law makers is all to familiar too. The echoes of “Something must be done” barely have time to fade before the same people cry “Nanny state!”. The Childcare Act which is at the heart of the story was brought in to stop cowboy (or cowgirl) carers abusing children in their care. It was brought in on a wave of public indignation after high profile cases of kids being mistreated by people who’d not been checked. The government, ever seeking to please the illiberal mob, rushed a piece of law to statute and handed it over to non-partisan civil servants to enact. This they have done with gusto. But the mob is fickle. It wanted this law. Now it has it. Now it doesn’t want it.

Consider this hypothetical: An unqualified friend offers to look after a child in exchange for some kindness, walking the dog for instance. The friend takes pictures of your naked child while you’re at work and flogs them to an internet paedophile. When the story hits the papers there are cries of “Something must be done”. But of course something has been done. It’s called the childcare act. If Ofsted had failed to act on the breach it would be condemned for not doing its job.

Now, if anyone can tell me how the law could have been differently drafted to allow the two police officers to continue but stop our hypothetical predator I’d be pleased to hear it. In the meantime I’d appreciate it if you could all try and keep your knee relaxed and your right foot firmly on the floor.

1 comment:

  1. It's a giant inflatable comedy hammer to crack a nut - grossly disproportionate and virtually ineffective.

    How will forcing registration with Ofsted foil your hypothetical predator? Other than a CRB check (irrelevant for the police officers, who have undergone far more thorough checks anyway), an inspection once every 4 years isn't going to curb their amateur photography sessions.

    What about all the other red tape that comes with it? Once registered you have to prove you are delivering Early Years Foundation Stage learning. Get a First Aid qualification. Have a documented child protection procedure. It goes on and on.

    This law is primarily about income tax avoidance, not child protection. Its use in this situation is entirely inappropriate.

    If the government wanted to do something about the potential child protection issue, why not allow individuals to apply for their own CRB check? (Something they have repeatedly refused to do). So parents can ask to see their baby sitter's CRB as proof they are not a convicted paedophile.

    It'll be just as ineffective as Ofsted, but at least it's practical and proportional.

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