I initially didn’t pay much attention to the proposals made this week by Grandparents Plus that grannies* should receive financial recognition for their childcare of grandchildren. I had gone so far as to wonder why parents should not be able to receive working tax credit for childminding provided by extended family as well as registered childminders, but this seemed too susceptible to fraud to be ever likely to happen. But today I read an interesting article by Melanie Reid which I don’t entirely agree with but which provoked a little further thought on my part.
Firstly she points out that if grandparents were to be treated as equivalent to childminders for the purposes of the childcare element of the working tax credit they would have to be demonstrably offering an equivalent service and yet the regulatory framework for even a poorly paid small business like childminding is monstrously complicated and not something that would be welcome, appropriate, practical or cost effective to apply to informal extended family arrangements. So that adds another layer of difficulty.
More substantively Melanie Reid opines that ‘what is depressing about this campaign is that in attempting to highlight the undoubted importance of grandparenting, it distorts what is precious about it. It reduces one of the closest of family bonds to a financial transaction, and tries to put a value on it. That’s very sad and ultimately destructive.’ I find this statement difficult. I agree at face value with what is said, I know my own Mum offers childcare because she wants to spend time with her beloved grandson as much as anything else and I wouldn’t want to sully that or insult her by offering to pay her – but the dynamics are complicated and like many working parents we are constantly anxious not to abuse the babysitting that is on offer. Like many grandparents these days my own parents still work and have little time for themselves. And the joy of being a grandparent is supposed to be that you can give them back when they grizzle or need a change.
Looking back I appear not to have posted about Jack Straw’s December announcement about the opening of the family courts, although I have since posted on the topic here and here. Although I’m sure I prepared a post on this announcement I suspect it went the way of several boxes of important ‘stuff’ during my house move around the same time…not yet found.
Anyway, Mr Justice McFarlane last weekend gave a most interesting address dealing with, amongst other things ( including rather bizarrely donkeys (I guess you had to be there), those reforms in detail – highlighting meticulously how modest the proposed changes in fact are. It is worth a read.
The reforms are of course due to come into force in April, although nothing further is in the public domain since the initial announcement so it is unclear in practice what will change as of that date.
POSTSCRIPT: More information here (nice title Jacqui) – apparently new rules in force 27 APRIL. Nice of someone to have told us…Perhaps we could see some draft rules before then?
A report published by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust this week entitled ‘The Database State – Scrap it Fix it or Keep it?’ has given the ‘red light’ on privacy grounds to several databases used to track children for child protection purposes, namely ContactPoint (details of every child in the country and who is working with them - recently remarked upon by Lord Laming in his second report on child protection in the wake of Baby P as a database which ‘will have particular advantages in reducing the possibility of children for whom there are concerns going unnoticed’.) and eCAF (assessment of children in need). The Integrated Children’s Services (social work case management tool) database which has already been the subject of criticism from Lord Laming and Social Workers for distracting social workers from the social work judgments they need to make to keep children safe and filling up their time instead with data entry received an amber light.
Various articles today but read for example this article in The Guardian. I for one find it creepy that before his first birthday data is built up, stored and circulated about my son which years later may affect him and the way agencies relate to him.
POSTSCRIPT: And now work on ContactPoint has halted because its not secure enough to protect vulnerable children. See here.