Mother campaigns against loophole in childcare rules

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A mother is campaigning against a legal loophole which meant her sister-in-law could not look after her daughter.

As the law currently stands, childminders cannot provide Government-funded places to children who are also their relatives.

Kelly Duff from Trinity Way, Littlehampton, had been paying her husband’s sister Sharna Roast, who is a registered childminder, to look after their three-year-old daughter Nancy.

But in December, just before Kelly was eligible for 30 hours of free childcare a week for Nancy, Sharna, 40, discovered she could not claim back her pay from the Government as she would for other children in her care.

Kelly said she was ‘absolutely distraught’ and ‘in floods of tears’ about the decision, which meant she had to scramble to get Nancy an extra day at her nursery, the PlayCentre in Rustington.

She said: “I feel we are being penalised because I’m fortunate enough to have a family relative who is also a registered, qualified childminder.”

Now, Sharna only looks after Nancy one day a week, which Kelly pays for. Nancy’s grandmother Janet Duff has stepped in to look after Nancy for two days.

Sharna, from Bluebell Drive, Littlehampton, said: “As much as it is upsetting for us, it is more upsetting for the children. The children I look after keep asking if Nancy’s coming today, and I have to tell them they won’t see Nancy anymore.”

Kelly wrote to her MP, Nick Gibb, who has raised the issue with the Minister of State for Children and Families, Nadhim Zahawi.

She is also working with Susanna Kalitowski from the Professional Association of Childcare and Early Years, which has been lobbying the Government to change the law.

Kelly said: “I’m not doing this just for the sake of us – I know by the time any of this gets changed it will be too late for me to claim the free childcare for Nancy. I’m doing this for the other parents and childminders that could be in our situation.”

Susanna said it was ‘unreasonable to have one rule for nursery settings and another for childminders’ and that it was ‘contributing to a decline in childminder morale and sustainability’.

She said: “It is forcing many parents to take their child out of a relative’s setting, regardless of their personal preferences and the best interests of the child and the wider family, including siblings.

“PACEY is in continuing discussions with the Department for Education but there will not be overnight changes.”