Childcare legal checks are primarily introduced into the UK through Acts, such as the Childcare Act of 2006, the Safeguarding of Vulnerable Groups Act of 2006 and the Children Act of 1989. These checks are established to prevent the neglect, abuse, and harm of children (anyone under the age of 18) in childcare settings, and to promote their positive development. For this reason, the UK government also established the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) in 2006. Organisations working with government agencies, such as the UK Charity Commission and charities, such as the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), work together to develop guidance for policies and procedures that will promote the wellbeing of children.
Childcare Act of 2006
In the UK, the Childcare Act of 2006 came into being during July 2006, placing a duty on all Local Authorities to improve the wellbeing and safeguard young children. The Act therefore applies to all those working within the Childcare sector and those who care for children in any capacity.
The Act applies to the UK government’s broader initiative of “Every Child Matters” to enhance services and outcomes, such as childcare, pre-school provision for children, and parental guidance / information services. Every Child Matters promotes working together to safeguard children.
The term “safeguarding” of children, extends far further than addressing harm or abuse of children to include prevention and also promotion of development. Part of the definition includes any agency in the UK working with children must minimise any risk of harm to a child through controlled measures, all agencies also have to follow local authority policies and procedures for action and addressing concerns related to children in care. These measures not only protect children, but also enable organisations and individuals to secure their reputations. Childcare legal checks are therefore a valuable means for organisations and childcarers to promote confidence in their services
Childcare Legal Checks
Agencies and individuals who provide childcare can register with the UK Charity Commission as a means of meeting the legal requirements to operate within a childcare setting. These legal checks include:
(a) Qualifications in the policies and procedures which they have in place for keeping children safe
(b) Other training such as in first aid
(c) Disclosure of Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) – enhanced CRB
(d) Public liability insurance where necessary
Where proof of qualifications, a CRB check and suitable references may have sufficed to meet legal checks for working in childcare, the Independent Safeguarding Authority is now more involved in determining suitability of those working with vulnerable groups, including children. Ofsted, through their registers, carry out legal checks on childcare providers.
Voluntary Registration on Ofsted’s General Childcare Register (vGCR)
Certain childcare professionals are required to register with Ofsted as previously discussed; however other individuals working in childcare can do so voluntarily. The benefit of this registration is that childcare workers gain basic childcare training skills, an enhanced CRB check that proves their suitability to work with children, public liability insurance, and further training in first aid and working with children who have special needs. Parents can also use the register as a means of verifying that a person is suitable to care for their child because they have met childcare legal checks.