Vast majority of State’s 30,000 childminders not declaring income

Just 450 childminders out of estimated number availed of tax exemption

A tax exemption operated by the Revenue Commissioners allows childminders who take care of up to three children to earn up to €15,000 a year tax-free. Photograph: Joe St Leger

A tax exemption operated by the Revenue Commissioners allows childminders who take care of up to three children to earn up to €15,000 a year tax-free. Photograph: Joe St Leger

Mon, Apr 8, 2013, 06:00

The vast majority of the State’s estimated 30,000 childminders are not declaring their income to the Revenue Commissioners. Latest figures show just 450 childminders availed of a tax exemption operated by the Revenue Commissioners in 2010 that allows childminders who take care of up to three children to earn up to €15,000 a year tax-free.

The tax exemption was introduced by the Government in the hope of attracting more childminders out of the informal economy.

Frances Fitzgerald, the Minister for Children, has also tried to encourage childminders to register with their local county childcare committees, which provide advice and support to people caring for children.

Ms Fitzgerald’s department was unable to confirm figures, but informed sources say it is about 1,250.

Childminding Ireland, which represents about 1,000 childminders nationally, said it encouraged members to become tax compliant, but added there were many who may not be liable for tax.

Money, for example, may not necessarily change hands among relative childminders, such as grandparents.

In addition, the tax exemption only applies to childminders who take care of up to three children.

Fear of taxman
“I think there is still a big fear around the taxman, but we’re trying to educate people around that,” said Bernie Griffiths, manager of Childminding Ireland.

“There was more of an incentive to register when supports were available through the county childcare committee, but a lot of that is now gone, unfortunately.”

Funding for childminding advisory officers has been cut over recent years. These officials – which were based in each county across the State – offered support and advice to childminders. However, only a handful are still in place, according to Childminding Ireland.

Childminding, despite being one of the most common forms of childcare in the State, is one of the most loosely regulated.

Individuals caring for fewer than four children in their own home are not subject to any regulation, mandatory training or Garda clearance.

Yet an estimated 70,000 to 80,000 children are placed with childminders every working day.

Loose regulation
This loose regulation stands in contrast to the UK, where all childminders’ homes are inspected regularly to ensure they are safe and suitable for young children.

Childminders must be insured, have first-aid training and be checked by the police – as must anyone aged over 16 who lives or works in a childminder’s home.

Ms Fitzgerald has said she is considering future arrangements for the sector as part of a new early year’s strategy. However, she has also warned against over-regulating childminding arrangements that parents make with relatives, friends or neighbours.

The precise number of childminders is difficult to estimate, given the extent of informal caring arrangements.

Childminding Ireland estimates there are about 30,000 childminders, while a report by Goodbody Economic Consultants estimated there were about 19,000 paid childminders caring for pre-school children.

Groups such as Start Strong – which represents more than 40 children’s groups, including Childminding Ireland – say there should be mandatory Garda vetting of all paid, private childminders and other adults.

The coalition argues that regulation of all paid childminders would help to protect children, would raise quality standards, and would continue to offer a wider range of options for families.