Nurseries advised to set up whistleblowing policies after Vanessa George case

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An early years expert has warned of the need for early years settings to have an effective whistleblowing policy in place, in light of the high profile court case of paedophile Vanessa George.

Earlier this week the nursery nurse was jailed indefinitely and told she would serve a minimum of seven years.

Eva Lloyd, Reader in Early Childhood, University of East London, said that nursery managers and practitioners should consider potential lessons from this case, even though she said it was ‘exceptional and hopefully will remain so.'

She said that the Vanessa George case raised questions about good working practice in nurseries about intimate care, the need for management to enforce codes of conduct and for early years settings to have a whistleblowing policy.

Professor Lloyd said, ‘This case highlights that policy and procedures have to be used effectively in order for young children in non-parental care to be properly safeguarded.'

She commented that early years child protection guidelines and procedures tend to focus mainly on how to spot signs of children potentially being abused by parents, carers and others, but that this case highlighted the need for staff to be able to raise concerns about potential abuse within the nursery setting.

She said, ‘Children are still less likely to be at risk from early years practitioners than their parents. However, nurseries need to reflect on the complexities of whistleblowing in early years settings, especially if concerns centre around someone higher up in the nursery hierarchy, and need to question what they should be looking out for.'

She added, ‘How often are early years workers in small, and maybe isolated nurseries, able to have discussions and refresher training around such policies and procedures? The majority of nursery providers in this country are sole operators and very small chains, where non-contact time for such staff activities may be at a premium.'

Professor Lloyd warned that there could be a potential backlash against nurseries caring for babies.

She said that research confirmed that parents often harbour ambivalent feelings about putting their very young children in group care and may ask serious questions from nursery management as a result of this case.

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