I wish I could say that I was shocked to read of the man who called himself the "Peter Pan nanny" who was jailed last Thursday for 12 years for sexually abusing boys as young as six, but I was not.
I read in the media that “Alexander Philo-Steele, 36, advertised his services to unsuspecting parents online claiming he was "nurturing, reassuring and supportive".
Steele, from Earls Court, in west London, advertised his childminding services online:
"I am a fully trained and experienced male nanny. I specialise in early years care, education and development," one advert stated.
"I excel at providing high standards of attentive care. I am described as nurturing, reassuring and supportive." read another.
There are so many glaring questions here:
What is an “unsuspecting parent”? Sourcing your childcare online would surely mean your start point is ‘suspecting’? I am not apportioning blame on the parents involved, their experience has been horrific. However, I do question how little we do to highlight the real dangers when looking for child carers online. That there are no clear, legislated for, requirements of responsibility. For example, it is an offence to employ someone who does not have the right to work in the UK but when gaining access to job seekers via websites or online job forums, should the website or forum be required to ask for proof of employment status before carrying the “nanny’s add” or, should they merely be required to highlight that no such checks have been made? Who should be responsible for checking the candidates credentials; that they are who they say they are; their qualifications are legitimate, and so on? What about reference checking? By being silent on the subject we’re allowing a situation where no checks are carried out and where incorrect assumptions are being made.
Personally, I believe employers should be prepared to check everything and take nothing for granted. A well branded website / Online jobs forum / nanny page can give the impression that online safety checks are applied when in fact they are not.
Steele was jailed for 12 years, with an extra two years on extended licence. According to the Senior CPS, Steele held a sexual interest in young boys and acted upon his desires over many years, and Scotland Yard Detective Constable Rachel Davison called for any other potential victims to come forward to police. Yes, Steele is now off the streets and can no longer harm young children but what of the shambolic system that allowed / allows this to happen? Nothing is in place to prevent this happening again.
At the risk of sounding like a cracked record, nannies must be registered and regulated. Online nanny job sites / social media forums must be required to operate within strict guidelines and stringent penalties must be introduced where they fail. Plus, we must all campaign to make parents aware:
Anyone can call themselves a nanny
Nannies are not subject to registration and / or regulation
Online nanny job sites or social media forums are not subject to scrutiny and not required to make even the most basic checks
Parents / employers must take responsibility for checking all nanny applicants BEFORE appointing them, giving them access to young children.
NOTHING LESS WILL DO.