Campaigning for nanny regulation

Maria Culley speaks to workingmums.co.uk about her campaign to get nannies regulated and to boost child safeguarding.

maria culley

Maria Culley

During the Covid lockdowns, nannies were allowed to look after children in their own homes while there were restrictions on other forms of both formal and informal childcare.  Like cleaners, they were among the few visitors people were allowed into their homes and yet many parents are likely to be unaware that the profession is unregulated. Indeed the families who hire nannies are subject to more regulations than nannies themselves.

One person who is campaigning to change all this and increase child safeguarding is Maria Culley, who has been a nanny for nine years and has worked in the childcare profession for 15. She is arguing for a statutory registration and regulatory system for all nannies in England.

Maria always knew she wanted to work with children, did her Level 2 qualifications and worked as a volunteer with street children in the Philippines before returning to get her Level 3 qualification and working her way up from nursery nurse to management in a nursery setting. She was head hunted by a family to work as a nanny and hasn’t looked back since. She has worked with many different families in the UK and internationally – she had to be repatriated from Barbados during the first lockdown – and, although she works long hours, she wouldn’t change it.

Campaigning

She has had backing from her MP, Robbie Moore, since day one of her campaign and was at Westminster last week to talk about it.  The Conservative MP for Keighley and Ilkley in Yorkshire says: “It is imperative that nannies have the necessary qualifications and experience to provide high-quality care for our children. We also need to ensure that the people we entrust with the care of our children are properly vetted.

“I fully support Maria’s campaign to ensure that the nanny industry is safe, fair and of the highest standard for everyone involved, and I will do all I can in Parliament to make it a reality.”

“For me it’s about safeguarding. Children’s safety is paramount,” says Maria, who has witnessed examples of poor behaviour by some nannies. Ofsted-registered nurseries and childminders are subject to DBS and other checks, but nannies are not regulated. She says that, although some agencies do have their own safeguarding measures, they are more expensive due to the placement fees. 

She adds that she has encountered some resistance within government to regulation on the grounds that it would be an invasion into parents’ privacy to inspect their houses, but she argues that that is to confuse childminders who work from their own homes and nannies, who don’t. She says DBS checking nannies provides a basic safeguard for children, alongside first aid training.

Childcare crisis

Maria believes now is the time for the Government to address regulation of the industry. She says that, while childcare was struggling before Covid, as a result of everything from underfunding of childcare by the Government to the impact of Brexit on au pairs, the pandemic has really put the spotlight on it.  She knows of some parents who were exploited during Covid because they were so desperate for childcare, for instance, being charged 25 pounds an hour cash in hand. She says some nannies were also exploited, forced to work, at risk to their health. 

Maria believes nannies could be one solution in the current childcare problems facing the country, given that they offer flexible childcare. But she agrees nannying needs to be made more affordable. She thinks that regulation could go hand in hand with tax breaks for parents, especially given that they currently have to pay tax both on their own income and on their nanny as well as contribute to their pensions. She adds that the closure of nurseries since the first lockdown is resulting in experienced childcare workers losing their jobs so there is a pool of talent available who could address the childcare problems faced by many parents as well as the aftermath of the impact of Covid on children.

Maria, who has written two books on nannies for children, would eventually like to see a greater focus on qualifications for nannies which she believes would also improve standards. 

She says: “Children deserve better than what they have been getting in the last few years. There needs to be much support for children and their families. I hope Covid is a wake-up call for childcare.”



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