Edition 28 December, by Hendrik Ike
Last month the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment announced that childcare centres will have to register, in addition to childminders, any individuals who go to child day-care centres or nurseries on a regular basis, including people who are not directly involved in the daily work of the centres. The measure will come into force on March 1st 2018. This is recognised as a government case to more closely monitor all those who have frequent contact with minors in social institutions, and therefore an attempt to improve the safety of children. However, it has also been criticised as a method that only works ‘after the fact’ whilst also piling a needless layer of administrative bureaucracy on already overworked day-care employees.
The move is seen as a consequence of a string of different acts in response to a sexual harassment case in 2010, where a day-care worker named Robert M. was found guilty of the abuse of over sixty children in the Amsterdam area. As a result, the Dutch government has been looking to improve the safety of children at day-care centres over previous years. A personnel register was introduced in 2013 which aims to register childminders and associates. Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs (DUO) is the body which manages the register, and screens registrants on a daily basis. According to NLTIMES.nl, ‘this continuous screening yielded 225 reports over the past years, around four per month.’ With this next step however, it is now anticipated that trainees, temporary workers and volunteers will also have to be screened. Notwithstanding this, the Ministry has made it clear that the new directive still allows room for individual interpretation. ‘Issues that require customization will regularly arise in practice. What always applies is that the holder is responsible for providing responsible and safe childcare. When the holder grants third parties access to the childcare center, he will always have to ask himself what this means for (the safety of) the children.’
Boink, an organization which represents the interests of parents in the childcare system, has been supportive of the new measure. ‘The expansion comes from the childminders, so that people who have done suspicions things no longer come into contact with children’, Gjaly Jellesma said to NOS. ‘But the registration of persons is a passive instrument. Let us not lose sight of the fact that real safety must come from the staff, who are critical of themselves and each other, and that there is a culture of communication.’ Other organisations also welcome the change, whilst still citing that there are gaps which need to be considered. The branch organization Maatschappelijke Kinderopvang supports the expansion of the personnel register, but states that challenges remain concerning the supervision of children. ‘Childminders have to indicate later when someone regularly comes across the floor, but what if you do not sign up? Who checks that?’, stated BMK chairman Sharon Gesthuizen.
There is also the obvious point that the register is also only useful from a legal perspective once a perceived offence has been committed, and may only go so far in acting as a deterrent for repeat offenders. With its implementation in March next year, there will have to be a period of time until the extended register can be properly evaluated. The question therefore lies at the feet of those who work in the day-care centres and how they interpret the measure. Jellesma aptly pointed out that ‘I understand that you register someone who regularly performs maintenance, but when it comes to an incidental job on the roof of an institution, it becomes complicated.’