We had hoped that in spite of small gains, the world had moved beyond prejudices about working mothers, that things had evolved and some obstacles had been removed.
It would appear that Britain has taken a big step backwards. Two female detective constables were threatened with prosecution if they didn't drop the reciprocal child care support they've arranged with each other over 2 years.
The Children's Minister has ordered a review of the case of two police officers told they had broken the law by caring for each other's children.
Ofsted said the arrangement contravened the Childcare Act because it lasted for longer than two hours a day, and constituted receiving "a reward". It said the women would have to be registered as childminders.
Minister Vernon Coaker said his department was talking to Ofsted about this particular case. According to the Mail on Sunday, Ofsted told two detective constables, Leanne Shepherd, from Milton Keynes, and Lucy Jarrett, from Buckingham, to end their arrangement.
'Stunned' Ms Shepherd told the newspaper: "When the Ofsted inspector turned up, the first thing she said was: 'I have had a report that you're running an illegal childminding business'. "I straightaway thought she must be mistaken, so invited her into my home to explain we were police officers and best friends helping each other out. "But she told me I was breaking the law and must end the arrangement with Lucy immediately. "I was stunned, completely devastated... I couldn't see how I could continue working."
Reward is not just a case of money changing hands. The supply of services or goods and, in some circumstances, reciprocal arrangements can also constitute reward Ofsted spokesman. ...
Thames Valley Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, said the pair had its "full support". Secretary Andy Viney said: "Both of them are experienced professional officers. "They just want to return to work after having children and have found that the system is working totally against them.
Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills which inspects and regulates care for children and young people in Britain. Someone used the whistleblower's hotline to rat out Leanne and Lucy. Did this busy-body think their children were at risk, being cared for by their own mothers and a close family friend? Was it an envious neighbour or perhaps a sexist colleague?
The BBC News has an interview with officers Shepherd and Jarrett, here. And more at the Daily Mail and the Guardian.