Thursday, 1 October 2009

The two policewomen and OFSTED

The creeping invasion of the state into what was once the preserve of the family and the individual – the databases, the intrusive checks, the inevitably disastrous attempts by bureaucrats to engage in social engineering through the promiscuous use of shoddy legislation and lazily-devised "initiatives" – has become so much a feature of modern life that most of us no longer notice it. Until the day it comes knocking at the door.

For Detective Constable Leanne Shepherd, that day was Friday July 10 of this year when an official from the Office of Standards in Education (Ofsted) called at her home in Milton Keynes, Bedfordshire. A CID officer in Thames Valley Police, she was enjoying a day off with her daughter, Edie, just two-and-a-half years old, when the bell rang.

“She was really lovely, the Ofsted lady,” remembers DC Shepherd. “She said there was a report that I was child-minding illegally. When I asked her what she meant – was I committing a criminal offence or something - she said she wasn’t 100 per cent sure.”

DC Shepherd’s alleged "crime" – and even in the age of the nanny-state-gone-wild, this takes some beating – was to have embarked on an arrangement with her friend, colleague and job-sharing partner, DC Lucy Jarrett, by which they took turns to look after each other’s daughter during days off. It was, according to both women, a “perfect” arrangement that lasted more than two years and allowed them to pursue challenging careers part-time (they conduct investigations together), and spend sufficient time with their first-borns in the years when they needed their mothers most.

There was no rigid pattern to the arrangement – its virtue was its flexibility – but it was reciprocal: each woman received a benefit in the form of two, and occasionally more, days of free child care during most weeks of the year. This supposedly violates the Childcare Act of 2006, which prohibits adults not registered as child-minders looking after other people’s children for more than two hours a day for reward – the reward being the free care. Read more
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