Ofsted withdraws ‘intrusive’ guidance for childminders to disclose depression

The watchdog said it has taken down the guidance after it ’caused some confusion’ across the early years sector.

Catherine Lough
Thursday 13 January 2022 16:22
Early years leaders have said withdrawn Ofsted guidance was ‘intrusive’ and could stigmatise mental health
Early years leaders have said withdrawn Ofsted guidance was ‘intrusive’ and could stigmatise mental health

Ofsted has withdrawn guidance suggesting childminders should notify the watchdog if they have depression or have been bereaved following criticism that the requirement would be “intrusive”.

The guidance, first published on Wednesday, called for Ofsted-registered childminders, nannies or day-care providers to report “any significant events” that might affect their “suitability” to look after children to the inspectorate.

The events listed included those “that trigger increased anxiety, hardship or emotional problems (this might include bereavement, illness or injury)”.

The Ofsted guidance, which was withdrawn on Thursday, said: “You should report these significant events as soon as reasonably practical but in any event within 14 days from the date the event occurred.

“If you fail to inform us you may commit an offence.”

Examples of health reasons where Ofsted would need to be notified included “changes to mental health” including depression or emotional issues, or “any other condition that causes anxiety, panic attacks, mood swings or anger”.

Childcare providers were also instructed to tell Ofsted if they were receiving income support due to a new illness or health condition.

Speaking to the PA news agency before the guidance was removed, Jonathan Broadbery, a spokesperson for the National Day Nurseries Association, said: “It’s a very wide-ranging list, it’s a very intrusive and personal kind of amount of information, and it’s information that people might not want disclosed.

“It’s very concerning because it’s quite ambiguous as to how far that would extend across staff working in these type of settings, and so then you’re asking employers to get information from staff,” he added.

He said the references within the guidance to committing an offence if information were not disclosed would be “hanging over people as well”.

A nursery owner based in the West Midlands who spoke to PA prior to the guidance being removed, said: “It’s the level of intrusion into the lives of myself and my staff that I think is causing the most stress.

“What are Ofsted actually going to do with this information and how are they going to use it?”

They added that “the fact that they’re asking about, particularly mental health, which obviously there is so much stigma attached to that” was of real concern, while questions about members of staff’s financial positions was “absolutely insane – it’s so intrusive”.

We welcome that this guidance has been taken down while it is thoroughly reviewed

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of NDNA

On the questions about mental health, the nursery owner, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “I can well imagine that that is just going to stigmatise mental health and staff are just going to suffer in silence.”

The owner said that if Ofsted deemed a member of staff unsuitable to work with children because of a health condition they would have no option but to dismiss them and feared that this could lead to employment tribunals.

The link to the guidance now says: “The information on this page has been removed because it was published in error.”

The watchdog has said the publication is now “under review”.

Cheryl Hadland, of Tops Day Nurseries in Dorset told PA: “I’m very pleased they’ve withdrawn it, obviously, because when I read it last night…I thought ‘Oh my goodness, what have they done?'”

She said nurseries already submitted information on Covid cases as well as changes in managerial staff, safeguarding issues and maintenance work.

“We already have to do an enormous amount of notification, but this was actually more than anything that we’ve done altogether – to notify them every time a member of staff suffered from depression – can you imagine what that would be like?

“In the middle of a Covid pandemic?

“I mean, just put us all down for that, thanks!”

“Say I had a miscarriage, and I didn’t tell them, how are they ever going to know?

“So it’s totally unenforceable, it’s also incredibly intrusive,” she said, adding that some providers had told her they would be shutting their businesses since this guidance emerged.

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said on Thursday: “We have had an urgent meeting with Ofsted about the guidance document where we shared the concerns of the sector.

“We welcome that this guidance has been taken down while it is thoroughly reviewed.

“We understand that it will be made clearer that the guidance will only apply to the registered person whose suitability is checked by Ofsted at registration.”

A spokesperson for Ofsted said: “We put together this guidance in response to a survey we carried out, where early years providers told us they wanted more clarity on things they need to inform Ofsted about, such as an incident or health issue.

“Nothing in the guidance was new.

“Reporting to Ofsted has always been a requirement of the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage).

“However, we understand the guidance has caused some confusion, so we have taken it down while we review it to make it clearer.”

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