Minister Zappone launches Draft Childminding Action Plan
29th August 2019
- Draft Action Plan sets out proposals for improving access to high quality and affordable early learning and care and school-age childcare through childminding
- Proposals to extend supports and regulation to all paid, non-relative childminders, with a phased approach to reforms
- Public consultation process launched: includes call for submissions; online survey and focus groups of childminders
The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone TD, today launched the Draft Childminding Action Plan, for the purpose of public consultation. The Draft Action Plan sets out proposals for improving access to high quality and affordable early learning and care and school-age childcare through childminding.
As well as publishing the Draft Action Plan, the Minister also launched a public consultation process on the proposals. She invites childminders, parents, other stakeholders and anyone interested in childminding to share their views. A call for submissions and online survey are available from today on the Department’s website (www.dcya.gov.ie), and a number of focus groups of childminders will take place over the coming weeks.
Work on the proposals began in 2016 when Minister Zappone established the Working Group on Reforms and Supports for the Childminding Sector. The Working Group submitted a report of recommendations to the Minister in March 2018. The Draft Action Plan being launched today is firmly rooted in the Working Group report. In line with the recommendations, the Draft Action Plan proposes to extend supports and regulation to all paid, non-relative childminders, with a phased approach to reforms. The Draft Action Plan extends over a 10-year period.
Childminding offers many benefits to children and parents, but currently receives little formal recognition by the State. Despite its many advantages and its continued popularity among parents, it has remained largely unfunded, unsupported and unregulated.
Speaking at the launch, Minister Zappone said, “Childminding is of huge importance to children, to parents, to our economy, and to our society. However, it has not received the support it deserves in our public funding or our system of regulation. This Draft Action Plan aims to address this. It recognises the valuable work that childminders do and aims to ensure they can access the supports they need. The Draft Action Plan sets out positive reform proposals to bring childminding into the mainstream of support, funding and regulation .”
A cornerstone of the Draft Action Plan is recognition of the differences between childminding and centre-based provision of early learning and care and school-age childcare. Given the home and family setting in which childminders operate, the Draft Childminding Action Plan proposes the development of childminder-specific Regulations. These should be proportionate and appropriate to the home setting. The Regulations will also outline the development of bespoke training and qualifications for childminders.
A key benefit of the proposal to bring childminding into the scope of regulation is that it will allow parents who use childminders to access subsidies under the National Childcare Scheme, which will require use of Tusla-registered service providers. In this way the Draft Plan aims to support parental choice in type of provider of early learning and care and school-age childcare.
The Draft Action Plan proposes that a transition phase will allow childminders to take part in the National Childcare Scheme at the earliest possible opportunity, provided they have completed initial training requirements and meet other core regulatory requirements (e.g. Garda vetting, first aid) and go on to complete further training over a period of years. The level of training / qualifications to be required has not yet been determined and is a key focus of the consultation process launched today.
The Draft Action Plan mainly addresses childminders who work in their own homes, who are self-employed. It does not propose to regulate those who work in the children’s homes, who are regarded as employees of the children’s parents (who may be “nannies” or au pairs). The Draft Action Plan does, however, propose to develop resources in relation to the use of nannies or au pairs, including information for parents.
There is no intention to extend regulation to those who care for children who are related to them.
Notes for editors:
The following documents will be available on the DCYA website following the launch of the Draft Action Plan on 29th August 2019:
- The Draft Childminding Action Plan.
- A short overview of the Draft Action Plan proposals, including case studies, and information on the public consultation process.
- The 2018 reports of the Working Group on Reforms and Supports for the Childminding Sector, Pathways to a Quality Support and Assurance System for Childminding, volume 1 and volume 2.
It is not known how many childminders there are. Based on CSO data on childcare use by parents and the limited evidence available on the average number of children with each childminder, the Draft Action Plan estimates that at most there may up to 19,000 childminders working in the country but that the number is likely to be far less, as some use of “childminders” reported by parents is likely to relate to childminders / nannies working in the child’s home, who are not the primary focus of the Draft Childminding Action Plan. Comparison with the UK suggests that the number of registered childminders may, after the introduction of regulation, be in the region of 5,000, though the Draft Action Plan also includes cost estimates based on a higher scenario of 10,000 potential registered childminders. Currently 81 childminders are registered with Tusla. In addition, approximately 610 childminders who are legally exempt from regulation are voluntarily notified to their local City or County Childcare Committee.
The current legal and regulatory framework for childminding is as follows:
- Currently, most childminders are exempt from the requirement to register with Tusla, as a result of long-standing exemptions in the Child Care Act 1991. These exemptions include: those who care for family members; those who care for children from just one family; those who care for fewer than 7 children (provided no more than 3 of those are of pre-school-age) in the childminder’s home at any one time. Registration requirements also do not apply to those who care for children in the children’s own home (when they are then regarded as employees of the children’s parents).
- The Child Care Act 1991 (as amended) only requires registration by childminders (working in the childminder’s home) who care for 4 or more children of pre-school age or 7 or more children of any age (other than their own children), at the same time. Most childminders do not meet this threshold. Childminders who do not meet the threshold may voluntarily notify their local City or County Childcare Committee.
- A number of actions are under way to support more childminders to register with Tusla in the immediate term. These actions include: the appointment of a National Childminding Coordinator and a team of regional Childminding Development Officers, to strengthen supports for childminders; and a “Childminder Learner Fund” to provide a financial support and incentive for childminders to achieve the current minimum qualification requirement for Tusla-registration.
- In the longer term, the number of registered childminders will only increase significantly if there is a change to some of the legal exemptions from registration and if new regulations are introduced that are proportionate and appropriate to the home environment in which childminders work. These reforms are a key part of the proposals set out in the Draft Childminding Action Plan.