PACEY has submitted a response to the Government’s consultation into amending current rules on disqualification by association.
As it stands, anyone working in childcare can automatically be disqualified from working with children if someone who lives or works in their household is disqualified. This is known as ‘disqualification by association’, and it was designed to stop an individual working with young children who may be under influence of a person who lives with them, and who could therefore pose a risk to children.
Concerns have been raised about the fairness and proportionality of disqualification by association for childcare workers in group settings. The Government is not seeking to alter the arrangements for childminders.
The Government has asked the sector to choose between three well-defined options:
Option 1 - remove disqualification by association in schools and non-domestic registered settings
Option 2 - retain disqualification by association, but introduce a new right to make representations to Ofsted before the disqualification takes effect
Option 3 - retain disqualification by association, but reduce its scope and introduce a new right to make representations to Ofsted before the disqualification takes effect
PACEY supports Option 2. We believe that this model strikes the right balance between safeguarding children and protecting the rights of childcare workers. Under Option 2, childcare workers still have an obligation to notify their employer if they are living in the same household as someone who has been disqualified. However, they would be given time (the Government is proposing 28 days) to make the case to Ofsted – and crucially can continue working while Ofsted considers their case.
We believe that removing disqualification by association altogether (Option 1) is a step too far which could jeopardise children’s safety.
Whilst we can see some superficial appeal in reducing the scope of the offences captured by disqualification by association (Option 3), in practice we believe that this approach is fraught with risk and difficulty, as the lines between more and less serious offences are often blurred.