Does Mary Poppins have a DBS check?

When the original Mary Poppins movie hit the cinemas in the 60s, our attitudes to childcare were very different. There was no such thing as a DBS check. Even its predecessor, the CRB check, was decades off. So it perhaps didn’t seem so strange that it was possible for the Banks children to put an advert in the paper for a new nanny. The children wanted someone who liked to play games, had rosy cheeks and was witty. And lo and behold, Mary Poppins arrives at their door. But do Mary’s childcare abilities really hold up to current standards? And would she pass a modern DBS check?


Why Mary Poppins would struggle with a DBS check

Had Mary Poppins arrived in London in 2019, Mr and Mrs Banks would start by asking to see her enhanced disclosure certificate. This is now standard practice for anyone applying to work caring for children or vulnerable adults. To get a certificate, you need to prove who you are, and where you live. Mary is very vague about both of these issues. Usually when applying for a DBS certificate, you need to show your passport, birth certificate, utility bills and so on. Ms Poppins certainly doesn’t need a passport to travel by umbrella. And the only person who can vouch for her character and identity is Bert the chimney sweep. Unfortunately the only people who can verify your identity for DBS checks are college teachers, and only for under 18s. So Mary’s only option would be to get on the electoral role, open a bank account, get a driving licence or register with HMRC to start building an identity profile. We get the impression that’s not really her style.

Qualifying as a Nanny

Getting a DBS certificate is just part of qualifying as a nanny. Modern nannies are childcare experts, with training in everything from first aid to child development. The Banks family have no idea whether Mary has any childcare qualifications or not, because they never ask. It’s probably fair to assume that nannies who dispense large spoonfuls of strange medicine without a signed parental consent form haven’t been trained. It’s also fair to say that a professional nanny wouldn’t consider an afternoon out dancing on rooftops as appropriate for small children. Where’s the risk assessment for a start?

How to get a great nanny

We know – Mary Poppins is just fiction and we’re not really being serious. However, there are some things which the Banks family didn’t do which modern families most definitely should.

  • Look at a CV. Check that the person you’re employing has the right qualifications and experience for the role.
  • References. Any decent nanny should be happy to provide references from previous jobs and clients. Don’t be afraid to call their referees to talk about their experience.
  • DBS checks. People being employed to look after children should have an enhanced disclosure check. This will flag up any cautions or convictions in their past which could impact on their suitability to look after children. If employing a nanny from overseas, ask for the equivalent check from the local police.