Lack of qualifications among childcarers sparks concern
Minister plans to make it obligatory for people working in area to be qualified
There is concern at data showing most people caring for young children have no childcare qualifications. Photograph: Edmond Terakopian/PA Wire.
Concern has been expressed following the publication of data showing most people caring for young children have no childcare qualifications.
A report by the Economic and Social Research Institute shows most nine-month-olds in childcare are looked after by relatives (42 per cent) or childminders (31 per cent) in the home. But 55 per cent of childminders and more than 83 per cent of relatives who look after children have no qualifications in the area.
“That is of concern,” said Frances McGinnity, co-author of the report, part of the Growing Up in Ireland project. The study involved interviews with the parents of more than 11,000 nine-month-old babies. The children will be tracked again at three years of age.
Ms McGinnity said there was a link between the qualifications of people who cared for children and the quality of care. In creches and preschool centres just 1.9 per cent of employees are not qualified. More than 67 per cent had Fetac awards, more than 20 per cent had third-level qualifications in the area, almost 4 per cent had qualifications from abroad and more than 6 per cent had done related courses.
Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said she planned to make it obligatory for all childcare workers to have qualifications. She added: “Clearly this report points to the critical importance of building childcare supports for families so that they have greater choice.”
Cost was often a factor for parents: only a third of relatives who cared for children in the family home were paid. The most expensive childcare was a childminder in the family home at an average of €7.35 per hour, though this could involve several children. The average hourly rate in a creche or preschool centre was €5.71.
Nine-month-olds who attended creche-type centres were more likely to develop infections. Almost half of infants attending creches had picked up chest infections, compared with about 30 per cent cared for at home. Nine-month-olds in creches were almost twice as likely to get an ear infection or have severe vomiting.
Creches and other centre-based care were more likely to say nine-month-olds spent no time watching television, at 83 per cent, as opposed to home-based carers, 53.2 per cent of whom said the infants watched no television. Babies in home settings were more likely to have individual interactions with the carer but less access to learning-enhancing activities and books.
Ninety-four per cent of mothers said they were satisfied with their childcare when it was by a relative, 88 per cent were satisfied with care involving a childminder and 73 per cent when the care involved a creche.
The report shows paid maternity leave influences women’s employment patterns after having children, with few returning to work within six months. Women with higher incomes and education were more likely to take unpaid leave. The report notes 12 per cent of men had taken unpaid leave by the time their child was nine months.
Ms Fitzgerald said Ireland had “a long way to go” on access and affordability to care. The system reflected the “policy choices” where payments to parents were preferred over investing in childcare.