Fear that stalks the working mother ... can I trust the nanny?

Years ago it was terribly easy to get hold of a nanny, one simply picked up the telephone and rang Norlands and they would send round a super girl in a frightfully smart uniform leaving one free to get back to sorting out the seating plan for dinner.

But just as the image of the upper-class mother needing staff has changed, so has that of the nanny. Nowadays it is more likely to be a harassed mum needing someone to look after the kids while she goes out to work.

The number of nanny agencies has increased dramatically in recent years in line with the increase in working mothers, but despite the strict rules governing childminders, who work for only a few hours a day, there are no such controls for nannies who often live with their employers.

But yesterday calls by a newly-formed pressure group for nannies to be entered into a central register, in the same way as childminders, received a mixed reaction from mothers, nannies and agencies.

The Playpen group, which was launched yesterday, is headed by Cheryl Winton, whose six-week-old baby girl was brain damaged after her nanny shook her. The launch came a day after a registered childminder in Yorkshire was jailed for five years for causing the death of a baby by the same method.

Mrs Winton said yesterday that she wanted to rectify the fact there were "no rules whatsoever" governing the employment of nannies. "There are no legal controls because it is meant to be a private agreement," she said. "We want new laws to control nanny agencies and make sure they are subject to the same checks as childminders."

The Norland Nursery Training College has been running its own such register for a number of years. Deputy principal Kay Crosse said that its stringent controls had proved invaluable for both parents and nannies. "The register means that Norland Nannies are accountable for their professional actions throughout their career," she said. "We do call our former students back to college on some occasions. Sometimes that's as a support."

Ms Crosse believed the register had made a difference in quality. "If one is brought in, I think it should be a statutory government agency. The difficulty is in catering for a much larger number ... but hopefully where there is a will there is a way."

At present, many parents place advertisements and go through an exhaustive series of interviews to determine a prospective nanny's suitability. Working mother Carolyn Cohn, from north London, said she would have welcomed any information that made finding a nanny easier.

"I placed an ad in The Lady and interviewed lots of people. We did ask lots of questions, but I suspect we didn't ask a lot that we should have done," she said. "We did check out references, but I've heard stories about nannies who gave telephone references and then got their family to make them up. It's very stressful as you are dealing with an unknown quantity."

Mrs Cohn was lucky. Her nanny, Lisa Gray, from Hertfordshire, has now been with her for five years. Ms Gray said yesterday that she could see no reason why nannies weren't registered "as childminders are, and nannies have just as responsible a job". She welcomed anything that would bypass nanny agencies. "Some of them are suspicious of everybody, they give you a real grilling. I can understand why, but a central register might avoid some of that."

A straw poll of nannies out and about with their charges yesterday tended to take the opposite view, however. "I don't think there is any point," said Rebecca Bowers. "The existing system seems to work fine. My employers sat me down with a list of questions and checked out my references themselves. That way people know that they are done properly. If I was going to get a nanny, I would certainly do it myself."

Vicky Clancy added: "I don't think a register would make any difference - after all, that childminder was registered and look what happened."

"Every time something like this happens, there is a big panic, and it is stupid," said Anita Munnelly. "The mums only think about the bad cases and worry even more. If you look around you, the vast majority of nannies are brilliant."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected