24 May 2016, Jo Parkes
The Pre-school Learning Alliance complained to the broadcaster to flag ‘a number of serious inaccuracies’ in BBC1’s ‘In the Club’.
These included a ratio breach and a suggestion medicine could be given to a child without consent, and giving the impression that the professionals are ‘little more than babysitters’.
The character, Diane, also left her husband Rick holding the fort, within days of returning home from a spell in prison for armed robbery.
The channel is currently screening the second series of the drama, written by Bafta-winning Kay Mellor, about pregnancy, birth and relationships.
In its complaint, the Alliance wrote, ‘We have been alerted to a number of serious inaccuracies in the depiction of the character of Diane in the series "In the Club" with regard to her role as a childminder.
‘For example, during a recent episode, this character was shown giving medication to a child without parental permission and operating outside statutory ratios.
‘While we recognise that this is a fictional programme, we were extremely disappointed that the programme chose to perpetuate the outdated stereotype of childminders as little more than babysitters.
‘To be clear, childminders are early years professionals – registered with and inspected by Ofsted, and obligated to follow the Early Years Foundation Stage, and adhere to strict regulations with regard to the safeguarding and welfare of the children in their care.’
The character Diane, played by former Eastenders star Jill Halfpenny, has become a registered childminder to make ends meet while her husband serves his sentence, and while looking after their twin babies.
When she has to take one of the twins for a hospital check-up, she leaves Rick at home.
Then, after one of the children is injured while playing, social services become involved. Rick is DBS checked and Diane is de-registered.
The Alliance added in its complaint, ‘We would welcome the opportunity to discuss these concerns further with the programme’s research team and to ensure that, going forward, this character accurately reflects the professionalism, experience and expertise of the childminding workforce.’
Childminders also commented on the episode on the association’s Facebook page.
A spokesperson for Rollem Productions, the company behind the series, said they welcomed the feedback.
They added, ‘Whilst we do consult relevant professionals at all stages of the writing process the drama is purely fictional - and as with any drama we have to take dramatic license sometimes to make the story work.
‘It is not Kay’s intention to cause distress but to look at a variety of situations - some of which involve human and professional errors to make the drama as compelling as possible (increasing conflict and therefore making it dramatic).
‘Kay is fully aware that Diane should not have acted in the way she did but this was all part of the dramatic effect.
‘Diane also acknowledges she has done wrong which makes the point beautifully.
It is important to note that at no time was the character shown giving medication without parental permission.
‘With regards to Diane operating outside of statutory ratios: as written, Diane tells Rick that her mother regularly helps out when she has more than one early years child and she has been DBS checked.
‘Diane’s character is certainly not meant to be representative of all childminders.’
PACEY also complained to the producers and posted a blog on the association's website, amid concerns raised by members.
A PACEY spokesperson said, 'On a positive we did receive reassurance that Diane the childminder in question would not be returning to childminding on the programme.'