On April 15, 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 childcare through childminding.
The Plan follows through on the commitments made in the First 5 strategy and the Programme for Government. The Plan estimates that there are approximately 15,000 (non-relative) childminders in Ireland. The Child Care Act 1991 exempts most childminders from regulation. Currently, fewer than 80 childminders are registered with Tusla. One consequence of this is that the vast majority of childminders cannot take part in the National Childcare Scheme. Meanwhile, the international framework is one that childminding is regulated is most European countries.
The Action Plan mainly addresses self-employed childminders who work in their own homes. The Action Plan is not primarily concerned with childminders or nannies who work in the child’s home, and who are employees of the child’s parents, nor is the Action Plan primarily concerned with au pairs. The Action Plan does, however, include an action to develop information and training resources in relation to the use of nannies and au pairs. The Action Plan will not extend regulation to those who solely care for children who are related to them.
A phased transition
The Action Plan sets out a phased approach to reform:
- 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.
It is estimated that Phase 1 costs could range from €1.8m to €2.8m per annum. It is estimated that the additional cost in Phase 3 would be at least €23m per annum, which would represent a 4% increase in annual public spending on early learning and care and school-age childcare. First 5 commits to at least doubling investment in Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare by 2028, and it is envisaged that the cost of the Action Plan would be met from this increase. These costs are indicative only.
A Steering Group will oversee implementation of the Action Plan. The Steering Group will be chaired by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) and will include representation of childminders, parents and other key stakeholders.
Early Childhood Ireland welcomes the launch of the National Action Plan for childminding. It is a positive step forward, as childminders play a central role in provision of both early learning and care and school-age childcare in Ireland. It is vital that children of all ages can benefit from quality experiences whether their parents avail of a childminder and/or an Early Learning and Care/School Age Childcare setting.