Childminding is defined as paid, non-relative, home-based care of children aged from birth to 14. The report uses the term ‘childminder’ for those who care for children in their own home and the term ‘nanny’ or ‘au pair’ for those who care for children in the child’s home. In 2021, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth published the National Action Plan for Childminding.
In Ireland, childminding is almost entirely unregulated. Many childminders are exempt from regulations due to a clause in the Child Care Act 1991. Before February 2019, only childminders who cared for more than three preschool children from different families had to register with Tusla and, therefore, were subject to regulation. Section 22 of the Childcare Support Act 2018 came into force in February 2019. This broadened the scope of the regulation to include childminders who care for more than six children of any age at one time. However, childminding is understood to imply the care of six children or fewer. As most childminders are outside of regulation, supports were established to help them raise standards and move out of the informal economy.
Supports for Childminders
The National Childminding Initiative began in 2002. It contained National Guidelines for Childminders as well as a voluntary notification system so that childminders who did not have to register with Tusla could notify their local City/County Childcare Committee and begin benefitting from supports. The Childminding Development Grant was introduced in 2004 and was designed to help childminders with the costs associated with their work. Childcare Services Tax Relief allowed childminders to receive a tax exemption on up to €15,000 of income earned through childminding.
In 2021, the Department published the National Action Plan for Childminding. The Action Plan was developed following repeated calls to widen the scope of childminding regulation. A Working Group on Reforms and Supports for the Childminding Sector was established in 2016. This group’s report was published in 2018, with the Action Plan drawing heavily on it. The objective of the Action Plan is “to improve access to high quality and affordable early learning and school-aged childcare through childminding”. It is split into three phases: preparatory, transition, and full implementation.
Early Childhood Ireland sees the National Action Plan for Childminding as a positive step forward. Childminders play an integral role in the provision of Early Years and School Age Care in Ireland. It is crucial that children of all ages can benefit from quality experiences, whether their parents avail of a childminder and/or centre-based care.