February 2013

Further to my post last year regarding the deregulation of childminders, it appears that Elizabeth Truss is up to her tricks again, this time wanting to increase the ratios so that they can care for more children.  Please can you sign this petition – it is outrageous that she can even think that this is an option!

Keeping children safe, providing food, toys, equipment, crafts and outings is expensive for both parents and childcare settings, but the anser to reducing childcare costs is not for child carers to look after more children as this will undoubtedly have an incredibly damaging impact on the thing that matters most – the quality of care of our children!

Please join the campaign and sign the petition.  The message is simple … keep the ratios as they are!



January 2013

And so I feel the need to add to the previous post after reading about Mr Paul Caine’s story today.

When Paul Caine (aged 50) from Bolton was diagnosed with breast cancer, he turned to his friends for support, but was left struggling to  convince them he was ill – because none of them believed he could be suffering from the disease.   While the disease predominantly affects women – nearly 50,000 are diagnosed every year – Mr Caine is one of just 350 men who are  diagnosed with the condition every year in the UK.

But he says he had a hard job convincing his  friends he actually had the disease – which they  thought only affected women – with the landlord of his local pub accusing him of  ‘taking the mickey’.

He underwent surgery to remove the cancerous growth after discovering the lump whilst in the shower in May last year and has also undergone a gruelling course of chemotherapy. His radiotherapy  treatment will start later this month.

Left untreated, breast cancer in men can have the same devastating results as it does in women.   The youngest man to be diagnosed with breast  cancer in Britain is Nicky Avery, from Southend in Essex, who was told he had  the condition when he was just 24-years-old.   He initially beat the breast cancer but died  at the age of 28 after it returned in his liver and bones.

The warning signs in men include changes in the  breast  shape or size, a nipple turning in, bleeding or discharge from  the nipple, a  swelling or lump in the armpit or an ulcer on the skin of  the breast.   The good news however is that male breast cancer is usually easier to spot because a lump in man’s breast is very apparent.

So if a man you know says he thinks he might have breast cancer, what he needs is your support not ridicule.   Please make sure you are properly informed by reading up about the disease in men on specific websites such as or


October 2012

Those of you who know me well will know that almost 10 years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I had a particularly aggressive form of the disease and underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, followed by 5 years hormone treatment to block the production of oestrogen as my cancer was found to have hormone receptors.  Such extensive treatment was deemed necessary as the cancer had spread to the lower section of my lymph nodes which meant that the cancer had already started to spread to other parts of my body.  As I was below the age for regular screening I had found the lump myself but happily I made a full recovery and am still here to tell my story.

Imagine my horror then when reading that the latest review suggests women should continue to attend screening but that the advice they receive on potential harms should be updated and calls are being made for the breast screening programme to be changed.

This must not happen.  I was lucky – I knew what to look for – but how many women in a similar situation would have known that they needed to seek advice as quickly as possible?

An independent panel was set up to look at the evidence for breast screening because of concerns women were being told about the benefits of screening but not enough about the possible harms.  One of the main issues the panel were concerned with was overdiagnosis.  Apparently overdiagnosis can happen when a woman has screening and a tumour is spotted and correctly identified as cancer, but the cancer that is found would not cause her harm in her lifetime or would not be fatal.   For example, this could be a very early, slow growing cancer.  Presently the available technology cannot reliably tell whether a breast cancer found through screening is going to be fatal or cause the person further harm and so  all women who have cancers identified through the screening programme are offered further tests and treatment.

But let’s not forget that breast screening does save lives.   According to the evidence the panel looked at, the breast screening programme means that 1,300 deaths from breast cancer are prevented each year.  But for each death prevented by screening, three women are diagnosed and treated for cancers that would not have been fatal in their lifetimes. This means that every year 4,000 women are diagnosed with cancers that may not have harmed them.  On balance, the report says women should still attend screening but they felt that the advice on leaflets needs to change to reflect the chance that some people may be overdiagnosed.

I am extremely concerned that latest report will cause women some confusion, leading them not to seek further advice on the basis that they don’t fully understand that this is a potentially fatal disease.   If the disease does spread and becomes secondary breast cancer (when breast cancer cells spread to another part of the body, often the bones, lungs, liver and brain), it cannot be cured.

Whilst I do accept that the treatment is very distressing and invasive, surely it is better than the alternative?

Results show that screening can cut your risk of dying from breast cancer.   Current evidence shows that women invited for screening cut their risk of dying from breast cancer by a fifth compared with no screening.

The statistics are scary!  The UK has the 11th highest breast  cancer rate and every year 89.1 of every 100,000 women in the UK develop breast cancer.  Breast cancers is the third most common cause of cancer death in the UK, accounting for 7% of all cancer deaths. It is the second most common cause of cancer death among women (2010) in the UK, after lung cancer, accounting for around 15% of female deaths from cancer. Breast cancer was the most common cause of death from cancer in women until 1998; since then there have been more deaths from lung cancer in women.

Please ladies, be breast aware!   Changes to look out for include lumps or thickening of the breast, dimpling of the skin, changes to the size or outline of the breast, changes to the appearance of the nipples, bloody discharge from the nipples and lumps in the armpit area.  These changes do not necessarily mean you have cancer but it is important to see a doctor if you spot any of these.

On balance, taking all the evidence into account, Cancer Research UK recommends that women go for breast screening when invited to reduce their chances of dying from breast cancer.   For goodness sake, please make sure you continue to get regular mammograms if offered – they may just save your life!


June 2012

I wanted to keep this page separate from the others on this site as it is an area where I’d like to concentrate on some of the more serious issues that I feel need to be shared with a wider audience.

This week I have been contacted by a friend in Sheffield who is a Registered Child Minder.  She has asked me to help raise awareness of the fact that the UK Government have currently got plans to de-regulate childminders – something which I personally think is quite shocking!  Also, my more suspicious side is wondering if they aren’t using the ongoing banking issues and the trouble in Euroland to push this legislation through without any undue publicity.

The letter that has been put out there to gain signatures to the petition reads as follows:

“We urge the Government to undertake full and current research into all aspects of registered childminding and to consult with experts in the field, national representative organisations and most importantly those who are practising registered childminders, before deciding on the future regulation and inspection requirements of childminders.

We understand the Government’s desire to cut childcare costs for parents and need to reduce Government budgets; however as registered childminders we are an integral part of the childcare market providing professional, home based childcare that meets the needs of parents, providing more flexible hours, the ability for siblings of all ages to be cared for together, care from birth to teenage years ensuring continuity of care, and lower ratios that centre based care.

Registered childminders are regulated and inspected, they follow the Early Years Foundation Stage and meet the legal requirements in the same way all other early years settings do. This ensures that all children receive high quality care and learning opportunities and that early years settings have a common language when practicing multi agency working.

Before reaching any decision which will impact on parent’s choice of regulated childcare, children’s equality of opportunities and childminders businesses, the government must build upon the significant progress that has been made in the childminding sector in recent years, ensuring that this is a step forward with positive benefits to all but especially for children because opportunities to reach their full potential, once missed are hard if not impossible to recreate and failure to safeguard a child can never be reversed.”

They have a target number of 100,000 signatures that they’d like to achieve and the more people who can sign up to this the better.

Now, I’m not a parent or a childminder and so do not have a bias on this issue in any way, shape or form.  I am, I think, a rational, clear-thinking, intelligent individual who believes that children are not possessions but the most precious beings that some people are privileged to have been given.  Surely it is only right and proper that anyone we task to look after these gems are suitably qualified, trained, regulated and respected?

Please join me in showing your support and sign the petition at


  1. Many thanks for your support on this Tessa, it’s gratefully appreciated xx the more people we can get this circulated to the better.

  2. Thank you for your support – we need to get this message out. Childminders should not want or support this crazy idea.

  3. Thank you for raising this issue on your blog it is very important to myself and fellow childminders xx

  4. The policies of this government seem intent on creating a two-tier system Tessa – they are in the process of doing this in the education system and now it seems they want to do it in the early childcare system. I have never used a childminder but have a friend who used to be a childminder and watched as the child she looked after grew from a tiny baby into a confident boy who benefitted from having, not a surrogate mother, but another significant adult in his life who he could go to in place of his mother when he grazed his knee, when he felt lonely and needed a cuddle, when he just couldn’t contain his excitement one day because he had found a ladybird – He took his first steps with this lady, he celebrated his birthdays twice; once with her and once at home, he experienced brothers and sisters; which he didn’t have, he practised what he was learning with her – the list is endless – childminders provide a valuable service which just isn’t comparable to that of nurseries and day-care centres. It is an alternative which should be given the same value as that provided by commercial and state services not devalued and projected as an inferior choice. I truly hope that this proposed change does not go ahead, I have signed your petition and wish you luck with your cause.

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