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Thousands ring hotline to report errant childminders

INSPECTORS have investigated more than 6,000 complaints about childminders in England in a year, a new report reveals.

The majority concerned the organisation and safety of childcare premises, the Office for Standards in Education said. The disclosure comes after the education watchdog's first successful prosecution of an unregistered childminder. A west Kensington woman was fined pound;1,500 plus Ofsted's legal costs.

Ofsted took over responsibility for registering and inspecting day care and childminding in September last year. One of its first acts was to set up a hotline for people to report unscrupulous or unregistered carers.

Callers' complaints ranged from neighbours' quibbles about how parents had parked to accusations of child abuse.

Ofsted said it had met its target of investigating 70 per cent of complaints within 30 working days. It predicted it will have dealt with a total of 9,000 complaints by March. Each of its eight regional early years centres has a child protection liaison officer as well as a team of six complaints investigators, which often includes former police or benefit fraud investigators.

They have powers of entry to premises where childcare is provided, can issue notices requiring childminders to meet national standards, and, in extreme cases, can take childminders to court .

The complaints figures appear in a report on the first year of Ofsted's new early years role. During this, Ofsted staff processed details of more than 105,000 childminders and day-care providers.

Next year they plan to publish inspection reports for daycare providers on the internet. Although names and addresses of individual carers will not be published for security reasons, they will have an identification number.

Ofsted is also looking at creating a new category of registered childminder, called a "Home Childcarer", who will look after children in the child's own home.

"Early Years: Early Days" is available at www.ofsted.gov.uk. The national childcare complaints hotline is 0845 601 4772.

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