Calls for vetting of all informal childminders

CHILDCARE workers have called for garda vetting of anyone setting up a home-based or informal childminding service.

Childminding Ireland, an organisation for workers in the industry, warned that the current situation means that anyone, even convicted murderers, can establish themselves as a childminder and are not subject to any checks from the gardaí or the Health Service Executive (HSE).

Spokeswoman Mary McGrath said: "You can mind children in your home and you don't have to tell the authorities you won't ever see them and you are not breaking the law."

At the launch of Childminding Week, which began yesterday and runs until April 9, the group advised parents to check the references of anyone entrusted with looking after their children.

"Traditionally, parents knew the person that looked after their child, it was usually a family member or a neighbour, but that is changing now, especially in urban centres," said Ms McGrath.

The group also said that crèche and pre-school inspections should be extended to include settings where fewer than four children are being looked after.

Under the current system, the HSE is responsible for inspecting facilities with four or more children but smaller childcare settings, which represent 80% of all childcare places, go unchecked.

Childminding Ireland said the Reviewed Childcare Regulations, which will be published in the coming weeks, must include an extension of the inspectorate.

There are about 37,000 child-minders operating from their homes or in the informal economy.

Events will be held all over the country this week, including information seminars and training for child-minders.

Details can be found on www.childminding.ie.

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