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How your legal cover can help

How your legal cover  can help

NICMA selected legal expenses provider ARAG to supply legal protection and advice to their childcare policyholders. This cover is designed to support your needs as a childminder and offers services such as telephone advice lines and custom contracts as well as debt recovery actions and legal representation.

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Public Liability insurance is a compulsory requirement for registered childminders, just as business use cover is a compulsory legal requirement on your motor insurance if you transport children in your car, but the high cost of settling legal disputes makes it increasingly important to ensure that you are also protected against the potential legal risks you could face. Fortunately, legal expenses insurance is included in your NICMA Practitioner Insurance as standard to help you manage the risks and potential cost of legal action as well as a host of other benefits such as legal and taxation helplines.

Your legal expenses insurance will cover you for such risks as you being asked to attend Public Childcare Proceedings initiated by a local authority or the NSPCC either as a respondent or intervener, decisions of regulatory bodies such as Ofsted to suspend, cancel or refuse to renew your registration, and even allegations of criminal abuse. These risks exist for all childminders as they might well result from honest mistakes and malicious allegations, so without specialist legal expenses insurance cover the choice between hiring an expensive lawyer or committing huge amounts of time and energy to fighting the case can be ruinous, even if you are vindicated in the end.

Your ARAG cover gives you access to a dedicated legal helpline, staffed by fully qualified and experienced lawyers prepared to answer your questions. These might range from what your obligations are if a child has a severe allergy to what you can do about a childminding assistant whose performance at work isn’t satisfactory.

If you need to hire a lawyer, your ARAG cover will give you access to some of the top firms in the country, all with experience of working with the childcare sector; something few high-street solicitors can say. Moreover, the limit of cover is £100,000 in legal fees, with no excess.

A problem that many childminders face at some stage is the need to recover unpaid debts. Cashflow is invariably a major concern and we know that parents failing to pay their bills can cause serious problems for childminders. The ARAG Legal Business Services website has document-building tools that will allow you to easily create the letters you need to follow the appropriate legal procedure for recovering debts. . If, after following this simple debt recovery process you remain unpaid, the policy will cover the costs of pursuing the matter if there are reasonable prospects of success, even if it means going all the way to court. Many other policies only include cover if the debt is disputed; leaving you unsupported if a parent is simply failing to pay money they know they owe.

Another part of running your business that is bound to keep you awake at night is tax. Whether it’s your VAT, PAYE or anything else you may have to pay HMRC, the enhanced legal expenses cover now provided can help here too. ARAG provide a specialist tax advice helpline, which you can call about any aspect of your tax affairs.

Of course the fall-out from a legal dispute can reach far further than a tribunal or a court case. Today’s social media environment has placed childminders under more scrutiny than ever before. ARAG are acutely aware that managing your reputation in the public sphere has never been more of a challenge than it is in this high information age, and the cover they provide includes a dedicated Crisis Communication advice helpline service. This invaluable resource, which you can use whenever you need it whether or not there is a legal claim, provides professional public relations advice to help you protect your professional reputation and maintain your position in the marketplace.

NICMA strives to offer you the most comprehensive childcare insurance in the market. From expert and independent legal and tax advice lines to legal documentation, reputation management and professional representation at court tribunals and police stations, you can work with the confidence that if you need support it will be there. The policy we offer is not just about protecting you from legal pitfalls and giving you peace of mind, but also about supporting you in your childminding business.

Please note cover is subject to terms and conditions.


Video doorbells

The sale of video doorbells has recently surged and they are now rated as the fourth most popular device in the ‘smart’ market. These products provide a feeling of security for many homes and business owners, and are especially reassuring for childminders. But along with the rise of this new technology also come legal implications surrounding data collection.

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With the ability to record both sound and image, video doorbells can be an inexpensive, but valuable addition to protecting property. But how should any data collected from these devices be treated? Here, NICMA talks to Matt Warren, UK Sales Manager from ARAG about the legalities surrounding video doorbells, collecting and storing data and the implications for you and your setting.

What is data for data protection purposes?
The collection and storage of data is covered by the Data Protection Act 2018, UK GDPR. Data is any information which is processed and stored which could identify an individual. This will commonly include names, addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses. It will also include video images and sound recordings collected and stored by a video doorbell system. Any business collecting and storing data must follow strict rules of data protection principles to make sure the information is used fairly, lawfully, and transparently.

Do I have to be registered with Information Commissioners Office (ICO) to store data?
Any business collecting and storing data of any sort must be registered with the ICO and you can do that here. This is a straightforward process and will cost in the region of £35/40. Registration is renewed annually and a failure to maintain registration can lead to a fine of up to £4,000. An individual using a video doorbell for personal use is not required to register with the ICO.

What documents do I need to provide to our parent customers/clients?
For all data collected, parents should be provided with a privacy notice. This sets out the data which is to be collected and what the lawful basis is for holding that information. It is likely that you already have a privacy notice, handed to parents when they register with you, to cover the standard information you ordinarily collect. You will need to check to make sure that it also includes reference to images and video. If it does not, it will need to be amended.

I have a video doorbell and have heard I could face a fine for using the images collected?
A recent case, involving images collected from a video doorbell and a CCTV camera, were found to be in breach of a neighbour’s privacy amounting to harassment. This was because both the video function of the doorbell and the CCTV were deliberately set up to collect images from the neighbour’s property. Many of the video doorbells currently available have the option to turn off sound and to customise privacy settings by blocking off-limit zones. It is advisable to access the options and set the use of the device in a way which is appropriate for the business. Images are usually accessible for up to 30 days.
With the continued popularity of video doorbells for personal and business use it is important to make sure that any relevant and applicable formalities are completed. Even if the doorbell is for both personal and business use, in the case of a childminder working from home for example, it will be necessary to register with ICO. Privacy and data remain the two key words to have in mind when both buying and operating any such device.

NICMA members now have access to a whole host of legal advice via it’s brand new NICMA portal, which provides legal support for both your business, and you as an individual. The portal, in partnership with ARAG is exclusive to NICMA’s childminder and nanny members and you can currently register on their website to gain access to information, law guides and be able to download legal documents and templates.

More information on GDPR can be found on the ICO website.


Debt recovery


One of the skills that childcare professionals often develop is a heightened sense of the local and national economic situation. Like those in the hospitality and property sectors, childminders have a unique perspective on the ebb and flow of the wider economy.

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When the UK goes into recession and people start to lose their jobs, the demand for childcare places inevitably drops and some parents may struggle to pay their bills, leaving the provider with unpaid debts. This is just one of the many areas covered by the legal expenses insurance included with NICMA Practitioner Insurance, part of your NICMA membership.

While the current economic climate is obviously very different and unemployment is still low, the ongoing cost-of-living crisis is likely to raise the same spectre of unpaid bills. Managing such debts to the business could be the key to surviving difficult economic times.

Two of the biggest hits to household budgets have yet to be fully felt. While gas and electricity costs have been climbing steadily, April’s raising of the energy price cap will see bills for millions of people increase by hundreds of pounds, over the coming year.

Interest rates are already rising too, but many homeowners are insulated by fixed-rate deals. Further rate hikes seem inevitable, and the estimated 2 million families on a tracker or standard variable rate mortgage will be joined by another 3 million on fixed-rate deals coming to an end this year or next. So, how should childminders go about recovering unpaid debts and what resources are available to help?

First, it’s important to remember that the circumstances of every creditor are different. Some may no longer be customers while others may simply be in arrears. Some might have a short-term cashflow issue, where others are struggling with mounting debts. Is your customer unable to pay or just unwilling?

Some debts might even seem more trouble to pursue than they are worth, especially if you are uncertain about the legal rights of the business and what steps you can legitimately take to recover the company’s money.

Recovering debts to the business is one of the common legal problems for which legal expenses was designed to provide help, and there is a series of simple steps NICMA members can take to ensure they have the best chance of getting any money that is owed to them.

First, the ARAG Legal website has unique document building tools that will help you to create the letters needed to follow the appropriate legal procedure for recovering business debts. If these are not effective also have access to our legal advice helpline, which can provide specific advice about particular legal situations.

If the debt is still outstanding, your legal expenses cover will pay the costs of pursuing the matter further, even if that means taking the matter to court.

Many childcare providers are experiencing a squeeze of their own, between the rising costs of almost everything from energy to everyday consumables and resistance to any increase they might propose to their own prices, from customers facing hikes in every area of household spending.

Fortunately, all NICMA childminder and nanny members have access to the resources and support that will give them the best possible chance of recovering any overdue childcare fees and unpaid debts in an amicable and, above all, legal manner.


Disclaimer - all information in this article was correct at time of publishing.


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