Inadequate Care Putting Young Children At Risk

Young children have been put at risk in “inadequate” nurseries, childminders’ homes and creches, the education watchdog Ofsted has said. A total of 1,000 failed to look after children properly. Ofsted received nearly 2,000 complaints about safety and well-being including concerns about smacking and other mistreatment, and staff failing to stop youngsters being bullied or not properly recording accidents. There were reports about untidy and insecure premises, with one parent complaining that she found her three-year daughter on the path outside her nursery.

The watchdog said that 4% of the 25,000 registered providers in England were failing in their main duty to keep children safe compared to 1% that were deemed to be “inadequate” last year.

The government’s flagship policy of a massive expansion in after-school care is dealt a blow by the findings which followed inspections by Ofsted between April last year and March.

More than one in 10 after-school or breakfast clubs failed to provide adequate childcare. And 7% fell short of the basic safety standards the report, Early Years: Safe and Sound said. In all, these “out-of-school” groups were rated as the worst of any type of childcare in many of Ofsted’s categories. Ofsted judged 11% – or about 260 – of the 2,383 out-of-school groups which inspectors visited as inadequate.

There are nearly 108,000 childcare settings registered in England providing more than 1.5m places for children under eight. Last year Ofsted received nearly 2,000 complaints about children’s safety and well-being in childcare – 1,500 about safety and 400 about health. Concerns had been raised about the suitability of adults working with the children, safety and security, and health issues.

A small number of children have serious accidents – on rare occasions fatal ones – while in the care of registered providers, Ofsted said. Over the last four years an average of 80 incidents a year involving serious injury to a child were reported to the Health and Safety Executive.

Inspectors said they had “raised the bar” for what counts as satisfactory in an inspection. But Ofsted admitted there was no scope for complacency. In almost half the inspections, Ofsted identified ways to further improve safety, making over 14,000 individual recommendations.

Dorian Bradley, the watchdog’s director of early years, said: “The vast majority of registered childcare providers are meeting the national standards. However, there is still some way to go to ensure that every child in every setting is safe and sound, all day, every day.”

Overall, Ofsted said, one in 50 of the inspected providers were judged to be outstanding.

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association commented: “We are pleased that although Ofsted has tightened up the inspection process, it is still a very small minority that are not providing an adequate service.”

But she warned: “We do have concerns about how nurseries are going to continue to bear the cost of continuous improvement. Parents cannot afford to pay more to cover the costs of an improved service.

“We fear that nurseries will not be able to continue to bear the cost of improving services and staff skills, leading to the closure of high quality provision and decreased choice for parents.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said: “This report shows that the vast majority of parents can be very confident that their children are kept safe and healthy in their chosen childcare setting. We encourage childcare providers to consider how they can make additional improvements to their setting and raise the quality of provision.

“The report shows that the additional significant investment that this government has put into childcare and early years services is paying off by giving children access to high quality care. We expect this to increase further when significant additional investment is made, for example in extended school provision – £160m has been invested so far in extended schools with £680m to come.”