A Potted History
Professionals working with children and young people have been arguing for a long time now that they should be registered. There are several reasons. The self-interest is that registration tends to give credibility, kudos, standing and recognition to those who achieve registration. But the reason why registered people attract the recognition is that they have been checked out, they have been trained and qualified to the required standards, they are aware of the professional standards expected of them, and they will have promised to maintain those standards.
This does not make them perfect, and there are professionals who fall short, but in general, we recognise the value of setting standards and expecting quality work from registered professionals. Child care is no different. If a person is properly trained and is aware of the standards of conduct and professional practice expected of them, children should receive better standards of service and be better protected. And if there are lapses, the accepted standards can be used as criteria by which their conduct is judged.
There is a long history of attempts to establish registration. (The dates below have not been checked out and are approximate.) It was in the late 1970s that the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) argued for a General Social Work Council, to which the Social Care Association (SCA) responded that a General Social Services Council should be set up, to serve the service rather than a profession, and to include strong service user representation, again to ensure that service users’ needs were met rather than professional elitism. In the 1990s Professor Roy Parker considered the subject at the request of the National Institute for Social Work (NISW), and wrote a book more or less advocating the SCA model.
In the late 1990s, since there had been no government action to establish a general council, a group of professionals with an interest in child care set up the Institute for Childcare and Social Education (ICSE), primarily with a view to establishing a general council to register child care workers. Together with other bodies such as the Professional Association of Nursery Nurses (PANN), which is now part of VOICE, the ICSE set up a pressure group for a register for everyone working with children and young people, known as CRY. A strong parliamentary lobby was established and meetings were held with a company to undertake the work.
Sadly, this came to nothing, partly because the company was taken over and the new owners were not interested, and partly because Parliament was now giving the establishment of a General Social Care Council (GSCC) serious consideration.
The GSCC was indeed set up by statute under the Care Standards Act 2000, and it was pressed to register child care workers. It decided, however, to register field social workers first. For a number of reasons, it was disbanded in a quango cull in 2012, though its counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland continued. Its work was taken over by the Health Professions Council (HPC), which was given the new title of Health and Care Professions Council. It seems unlikely that the new body will want to bother itself with child care workers.
In short, despite valiant efforts and a lot of time expended, the model recommended by child care workers over the last thirty or more years has lost out, and the traditional elitist type of register for social workers is all we have in England.
A New Venture for Nannies
A pressure group called Regulation Matters is now arguing once more for nanny registration. It comprises the Association of Nanny Agencies (ANA), the British association of Professional Nannies(BAPN), Chiltern College, Morton Michel, Nannytax, Norland College, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and VOICE. The campaign is chaired by Tricia Pritchard, Senior Professional Officer at VOICE, who also played a major role fifteen years ago in CRY.
Childminders are the only child care professionals required to register, and Regulation Matters argues that the same regulatory system should be applied to nannies. At present there is nothing to stop unsuitable nannies from staying in the work.
Regulation Matters have been holding discussions with Skills Active, who have registered other professional groups, as there are many aspects to setting up a register – defining the professional group, identifying the necessary skills, establishing acceptable standards of practice, clarifying which training systems and awards are required. To do this, the nanny profession will need to be studied – the numbers of nannies, their age and gender profile, seasonal fluctuations, existing qualifications and so on. Systems will be needed not only for registration but also for deregistration in the event of unsatisfactory practice. The outcome should be a trained workforce to meet the needs of the market and registration should provide an assurance of the quality of the workers.
And the Others?
In the meanwhile both the SCA and the ICSE have closed down, and there is no one to argue for the registration of other child care workers. So we are back where we were forty years ago, and children and young people remain unprotected.