§ Mr. Carrington
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action she is taking to improve the effect of the day care registration system introduced in the Children Act 1989; and if she will issue more guidance to local authorities on this subject.
§ Mr. Yeo
A circular LAC(93)1 has been issued today to local authorities in England urging them to use the discretion that the legislation allows them to be less rigid in their approach to the regulation of private and voluntary day care services and childminders and to work to encourage increases in the supply of these services. Copies have been placed in the Library.
The circular sets a new climate for providers and registration authorities, emphasising that, in the interests of children and families, authorities must strike the right balance between ensuring standards and encouraging development of provision. In particular, authorities are reminded, first, that underlying the legislation is a presumption that registration should be granted unless the authority has good reason not to register; and, secondly, that the standards set in the Department of Health's earlier guidance are not legally prescriptive. They are points of reference to be taken into account by the registering authority in deciding whether an applicant and his/her premises are fit for the care of young children and, if they are to be registered, what conditions should be imposed.
The circular also announces that the Government propose to amend the Food Premises (Registration) Regulations 1991 to exempt childminders registered under the Children Act 1989 from the requirement also to register their premises with Environmental Health Departments.