TV bosses wash their hands of nanny with fake qualificationsPatrick Foster, The Times, 19th January 2008
A controversial television nanny whose "outdated and potentially harmful" childcare methods brought complaints from hundreds of viewers fabricated her qualifications, it was confirmed yesterday.
The Times disclosed in October that Claire Verity, who appeared in Bringing up Baby, a programme that explored various methods of infant care, claimed to hold numerous childcare diplomas from organisations that denied knowledge of her.
The NSPCC said that the nanny’s methods, which included leaving babies to cry and limiting cuddling to ten minutes a day, were "outdated and potentially harmful". The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said that her recommendation that babies should sleep alone in a separate room contradicted guidance from the Department of Health on reducing the risk of cot death.
Channel 4 announced that it would hold an investigation into Verity's qualifications after it circulated publicity material detailing the awards that she claimed to hold, and described her on its website as having a “string of nannying qualifications”.
Yesterday, 12 weeks after The Times reported the story, the broadcaster said that it had concluded its inquiry. In a short statement it said: "At Channel 4’s request, Silver River [the production company] has asked Claire Verity for documentary evidence to support the qualifications listed in a document her agent supplied and, thus far, none has been forthcoming."
The channel said that it had no further plans to work with Verity and had planned only one series of Bringing up Baby.
A source at the channel defended the length of time that it had taken to provide a response. The source said: "We had to give her a bit of time to produce proof of the qualifications that she said she had. It’s nearly three months later and she hasn't done that. I’m sure you can draw your own conclusions."
Ofcom received 752 complaints from viewers, some of whom accused Verity of child cruelty. The industry regulator said in December that Channel 4 had been wrong to describe her as a maternity nurse, adding: "Where there is the potential for harm, broadcasters should be careful when using terms which may imply participants have medical qualifications or other professional status."
In October The Times asked Chloe Cunningham and Simon Fairclough, Verity's agents, to confirm her professional qualifications. The list supplied by Cunningham Management, which described Verity as highly qualified, differed from the qualifications that Channel 4 claimed she held.
Verity, who has no children, claimed to hold diplomas in child daycare and preschool practice from the national awarding body ASET. But a spokeswoman said: "There is no trace whatsoever of this lady on our database." She said that ASET did not offer a diploma in preschool practice.
Maternity Nurse Training, from which Verity said that she had qualifications in maternity practice, sleep training and paediatrics, said that she did not hold any of its awards. A spokeswoman said: "This person never enrolled on any of our courses and as such has never been trained by us. We would like to make it quite clear that we do not in any way endorse the methods employed by Ms Verity in her work."
Goal, from which Verity claimed to hold a diploma in childcare, said that it had no record of her and had never offered the diploma.
In addition, Ms Cunningham admitted that Verity had not yet taken the postnatal depression or care of multiple baby qualifications that Channel 4 claimed she held.
The awarding bodies also searched their systems for Verity under the name Houseman, the name of her former husband, and Bradley, under which she is listed on the electoral roll.
In an interview with The Times, Verity claimed to hold a degree in business studies from the University of York, but a spokesman said that it had no record of her and did not offer a business studies degree.
Verity could not be contacted yesterday. Both Ms Cunningham and Mr Fairclough put the phone down and did not reply to e-mails, but Cunningham Management did remove from its website a profile of Verity containing claims about her qualifications.The Times understands that she has enrolled on childcare courses since October