Unsafe Practice

A sleeping child was left in a car, with potentially disastrous consequences.

When a parent places a child in the care of a childminder, there is an absolute trust that their child will be safe and not exposed to hazards or avoidable risks.

UnsafePracticeThis complaint concerns a very serious incident where a childminder left a three-year-old  child in her care unattended inside a car while she completed work relating to a cleaning service she operated.

On the day concerned, the childminder took the child with her to a holiday home which she looked after to check the electricity meter. On arriving, the childminder saw that the child was asleep and she decided to leave him on his own inside the car. When she came out to check he was still asleep, the child had gone missing.

The child had awoken to find that no adult was present and he could unlock the car door, leave the car and wander off on his own. Fortunately, he was found by a passing couple who took him to the local police station. While this was happening, the childminder spent more than 15 minutes searching for the child. The child’s grandfather found him at the police station and informed the childminder.

While no harm came to this child, the situation could have been disastrous. The Care Inspectorate was also very concerned that the childminder felt that she could mind children and operate another business simultaneously. This practice is not acceptable. The complaint against the childminder was upheld and she is no longer a registered childminder.

The Care Inspectorate is aware from past complaints that some childminders consider leaving children unattended in cars is acceptable. It is totally unacceptable.

While the National Care Standards do not specifically refer to children being left unattended in cars, the Care Inspectorate considers the safety of children to be paramount and expects service providers to take all necessary steps to ensure this.

Providers of children’s services are expected to be aware of best practice and its implementation. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) published a report in conjunction with the Ian Goodwill Trust which highlighted not only the issue of leaving children in cars, but also the related risks. This report published in March 2011 followed RoSPA’s 2008 information leaflet, which identified that children aged under three were particularly at risk.

In the instance of this complaint, the Care Inspectorate concluded the childminder took a totally unnecessary risk and a young child was placed in danger.

Lessons Learned

  1. The need for all providers of children’s services to be fully aware of the dangers when children are left unattended inside cars.
  2. The need for providers to be aware of best practice and implement it to prevent unnecessary hazards.
  3. The need for vigilance at all times on the part of children’s service providers to ensure the safety of minded children.
  4. Children should not be left unattended inside cars.