Childminders are facing regulation within three years under the terms of a new government action plan announced this evening.
Parents who use childminders will also be able to access subsidies under the National Childcare Scheme as part of the plan which is focused mainly on the thousands of childminders who care for children in the childminder’s home — a sector where fewer than 80 of the estimated 15,000 childminders are registered by Tusla.
The National Action Plan for Childminding, launched by the Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman, aims to improve access to high-quality and affordable early learning and care and school-age childcare through childminding.
Childminding offers many benefits to children and parents, but until now has received little formal recognition by the State, and has remained largely unfunded, unsupported and unregulated, the Minister said.
“Until now there has been very little State support for childminding or public recognition of the important role that childminders play,” he said.
“This National Action Plan, which stresses the distinctive features of childminding, will open up a range of supports to childminders and will bring many benefits to children, to their parents, and to childminders themselves.”
The plan sets out a phased approach to bringing childminders within the scope of State-funded supports and regulation by 2028.
It is not primarily concerned with childminders or nannies who work in the child’s home, or with au pairs, but it does include proposals to develop information and training resources in relation to the use of nannies and au pairs.
Regulations will not be extended to those who solely care for children who are related to them.
But the government does plan to extend regulation within the first two to three years of the plan to childminders who care for children in the childminder’s own home.
The plan recognises the home and family settings in which childminders operate, and includes plans for new regulations and training that are specific to childminding, the amendment of legislation to allow childminders to register with Tusla, and a review of the funding and financial supports available for childminders.
The government accepts that it does not know how many childminders there are working in Ireland today.
Based on CSO data on childcare use by parents and the limited evidence available on the average number of children with each childminder, the action plan estimates that there are about 15,000 childminders caring for children in the childminder’s home. However, fewer than 80 childminders are registered with Tusla.
At the moment, most childminders are exempt from the requirement to register with Tusla, as a result of long-standing exemptions in the Child Care Act 1991.
These exemptions include those who care for family members, those who care for children from just one family, those who care for fewer than seven children (provided no more than three are of pre-school age) in the childminder’s home at any one time.
And registration requirements also do not apply to those who care for children in the children’s own home. In these cases, they are regarded as employees of the children’s parents.
The action plan has been launched on the back numerous reports, consultations and working group recommendations dating back to 2016.