Role of childminders in our sector
In 2021, the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, T.D., launched the National Action Plan for Childminding. Its overall aim is to improve access to high quality and affordable early learning and care and school age care through childminding. The Plan follows through on the commitments made in the First 5 strategy and the Programme for Government. Early Childhood Ireland was delighted to appear before the Joint Committee on Children, Disability, Equality and Integration in May 2021 to consider the Plan. Alongside other stakeholders, we participated in an important discussion on issues relating to childminding including regulation, support and funding.
While it’s difficult to find accurate data, the government estimates that there are approximately 15,000 non-relative childminders in Ireland. CSO survey data indicates that 13% of families use a form of paid home-based care, either relative or non-relative, in the parent’s home or in the childminder’s home. Childminders are self-employed caring for the child/children in their own homes, as opposed to nannies and au pairs who are employees of the child/children’s parents and provide care in the child’s home. Childminders work independently, in contrast with centre-based care where children are cared for by multiple staff members. At present, the Child Care Act 1991 exempts most childminders from regulation. In December 2022, fewer than 80 childminders are registered with Tusla. One consequence of this is that most childminders cannot take part in funding schemes, such as the National Childcare Scheme. By comparison, childminding is regulated is most European countries.
The Plan aims to review how best to support in-home education and care to ensure children’s protection, health and development, and possible parental access to subsidies. An expert group has been set up to advise on all aspects of service provision, including registration, regulation, inspection, funding and training. The development of a Communications Strategy, to communicate the benefits of registration, to childminders and parents is also in train with the CCCs playing a critical role. Development Officers and a National Coordinator have also been appointed.
Early Childhood Ireland has a long history of supporting members who provide high-quality care in settings around Ireland. We also welcome childminder members who provide invaluable education and care to children in their own homes. Whether it be in settings or in their homes, educators provide high-quality, accessible, and invaluable service to children and their families. Their professionalism, dedication and commitment to quality is something we witness every day.
We look forward to deepening our engagement with childminder members through an expanding programme of work. We are also participating in an exciting project on Family Day Care with colleagues across the European Union. Experiential visits will take place in 2023 to allow Irish policy makers an opportunity to see how well this model operates in other countries.
We will continue to monitor the Government’s delivery of the objectives set out in the Plan:
- Phase 1, which will be a preparatory phase lasting 2-3 years, will involve: the development of specific childminder regulations, development of bespoke training and supports, detailed costings, and further consultation;
- Phase 2, which will be a transition phase lasting 3-5 years, will see new regulations coming into force, access opened to the National Childcare Scheme, transitional training requirements, and expansion of supports;
- Phase 3 will involve full implementation, with the end of transitional arrangements, and childminders regulated and able to access multiple supports.
Childminders play a central role in provision of both early learning and care and school age care in Ireland. It is vital that children of all ages can benefit from quality experiences whether they are in a childminder and/or a centre-based setting.