Margaret Hodge, the Employment minister, made it clear that compulsory registration was not an option as she launched a booklet offering advice on how to interview and run checks on prospective nannies. "Of course no one can guarantee that children will come to no harm, and parents must accept the responsibility for both choosing and supervising their nannies," she said. "But the guidance will help parents to understand what they should look out for."
The booklet, Need a Nanny?, recommends that parents rigorously check applicants' references and qualifications and demand explanations for gaps in employment history.
The booklet comes in the wake of a series of high-profile abuse cases that have led to ministers reassessing child protection policy.
A nanny found to have a "sub-normal" level of intelligence, Louise Sullivan, wasfound guilty in February of shaking six-month-old Caroline Jongen to death, while the British au pair Louise Woodward was convicted last year of the manslaughter of Matthew Eappen, in the US.
The proposal for a national register for the UK's 100,000 nannies was first backed by Harriet Harman, the former minister for women, and has received strong support from some childcare groups. But ministers were worried that the plan would involve excessive state interference and would mean that some perfectly capable nannies without "paper" qualifications would be unfairly put out of work. The Government confirmed yesterday it has decided to drop the idea in favour of a voluntary code that awards a kitemark-style seal of approval to agencies which meet quality standards.
The new booklet was drawn up by the Daycare Trust and the National Early Years Network.