When your secure details are not so secure… by Sarah Neville

30th June 2017

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When childminders sign up with Ofsted, they are given the option of saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to whether they want their private details published on the Ofsted website. While some childminders are happy for this to happen, others do not want their street name and house number advertised: they do not feel secure working on their own in their homes with this information available to the general public. Other childminders ask for their address details to be kept confidential because of more sensitive family reasons.

The Childcare Registration website, which covers both Tax Free Childcare and the 30 funded hours, went live earlier this year to great fanfare. It has apparently cost something in the region of £35 million and has been plagued by problems for both providers and parents. A number of childminders messaged me to say that their private details were on the website – their names and full addresses – despite having told Ofsted that they did not want them published. Not just providers who have signed up for Tax Free Childcare either: all childminders were listed, even some who left childminding some months ago. I looked myself up and there I was – despite ticking that ‘no’ box to having my details made public – my name and address featured along with all the others.

How could this have happened? I rang Childcare Registration which is part of HMRC and spoke to a manager who said he could not do anything because the list of providers had been given to them by Ofsted. Colleagues had, by this time, rung Ofsted for help and been told it was nothing to do with them and they should speak to Childcare Registration. Meanwhile, the details were still there – on the Childcare Registration website – for all to search and see.

I took to Twitter and tagged Pre-school Learning Alliance to ask for urgent help. Thankfully this led to the Childcare Registration website being shut down while the privacy issue was corrected but many childminder colleagues are still not happy because their details can be found when a few more pieces of information are entered.

Childminders need to know how this data breach was allowed to happen and to be reassured that it will not happen again. Privacy is important when you work with children on your own in your home all day – you need to feel safe in the knowledge that your details are secure. However, privacy works both ways – my details are no longer on the website freely available which is what I wanted to happen: but now parents cannot find me using the service and I am worried I will lose work as a result. There has to be a better way!

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