‘New era for children’ – Childminding regulations essential step on path to fit-for-purpose Early Years and School Age Care system, Early Childhood Ireland

‘New era for children’ – Childminding regulations essential step on path to fit-for-purpose Early Years and School Age Care system, Early Childhood Ireland

May 14, 2024: The proposed new Childminding regulations offer the chance for a new era in the Early Years and School Age Care of children in home-based settings and have the potential to finally recognise the significant role childminders play, Early Childhood Ireland has said. The organisation is speaking following its recent submission to the public consultation on the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration, Youth’s Draft Childminding Regulations and ahead of the launch of a new research report on Childminding in Ireland in June.

Commenting further on the Draft Childminding Regulations, Early Childhood Ireland CEO Teresa Heeney said, “Childminders provide paid, non-relative, home-based care for children in their own home. For many families, particularly those who live in rural areas or who work irregular hours, Childminding is an accessible and crucial service which enables them to work.”

Early Childhood Ireland welcomes the introduction of Childminding-specific regulations as an essential step on the path to a fit-for-purpose Early Years and School Age Care system in Ireland.”

 

Clear need for regulation

Childminding is almost entirely unregulated in Ireland. Even though an estimated 52,000 children are being cared for by approximately 13,000 childminders nationwide, less than one per cent of them are registered with Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.

“Currently, there is no requirement for unregistered childminders to carry out a risk assessment of their service, nor is there a requirement for unregistered childminders, or other adults living in their home, to be Garda vetted,” Teresa Heeney, CEO of Early Childhood Ireland, said.

“There is a clear need for the introduction of Childminding-specific regulations to ensure child safeguarding, to introduce adequate standards of safety, formalise the numbers of children in the care of a childminder, and to provide reassurance to families who use registered childminders,” she continued.

“Childminders will also benefit from the introduction of regulations. They will finally get the recognition they deserve from the State for their invaluable role in providing care and education to children in every community and be able to benefit from funding and other supports such as Childminding-specific training and professional development,” she added.

 

One adult for every four children

According to Early Childhood Ireland, the new regulations should align with the EU Quality Framework for Early Years and School Age Care and include conditions to make these services accessible and provide childminders with specialised training opportunities. The organisation is also recommending that the adult-to-child ratio in Childminding settings be a maximum of one adult for every four children. This contrasts with the draft proposal, which allows for one adult for every six children.

“We know from our research in countries such as Denmark, which is considered to be the standard bearer when it comes to Childminding, that lower adult-to-child ratios lead to better outcomes in the quality of provision and ultimately benefit children. Early Childhood Ireland is recommending that the proposed ratio of one adult to every six children be reduced to one to four to bring us in line with our Nordic peers,” Ms Heeney said.

 

Frontloading funding

“In light of the Government’s recent announcements about fast-tracking the regulations to allow parents of registered childminders access to the National Childcare Scheme (NCS), it is vital that adequate funding is provided to ensure that Tusla has the resources to register childminders and to enable childminders to avail of any assistance offered by relevant agencies,” Ms Heeney added.

The organisation has also stressed that the regulations must be clear and easy to understand and that any fees involved in registering must not be prohibitive for childminders.

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