Childminders may face ‘mandatory’ training and vetting

Regulations should apply to people providing paid-for care in home, notes Government report

Only 120 childminders out of 35,000 nationally are registered with authorities. File photograph: Getty Images

Only 120 childminders out of 35,000 nationally are registered with authorities. File photograph: Getty Images

 

Thousands of childminders face inspections and mandatory training, under proposals contained in a Government-commissioned report.

It is estimated that one in 10 children under the age of 12 are cared for by childminders.

However, only 120 childminders out of an estimated 35,000 nationally are registered on a voluntary basis with authorities.

The report proposes introducing mandatory regulations for childminders who are providing paid-for care in their home for more than two hours a day for children up to 15-years-old.

To encourage registration, the report proposes s making paid childminders eligible for new forms of tax relief on portions of their income and grants to adapt their homes.

It also says childminders should be eligible to deliver State-subsidised childcare schemes which, until now, have been largely available only in childcare centres.

This would mean parents who use childminders would be able to avail of a €20-a-week universal childcare subsidy introduced last September.

In return, childminders would face inspections and be required to meet minimum standards such as childcare qualifications, insurance in addition to health and safety risk assessments.

Significantly, relatives – such as grandparents – who provide childminding services in their homes would be excluded from the scheme as they provide “kinship care”.

Au pairs and nannies are also excluded on the basis that they are directly employed by parents, unlike self-employed childminders.

They are among the recommendations of a new Government working group report, Pathway to a Quality Support and Assurance System for Childminding, due to be published this week.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone: children availing of childminding should have benefit of similar standards that exist in centre-based childcare. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Minister for Children Katherine Zappone: children availing of childminding should have benefit of similar standards that exist in centre-based childcare. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

The group was established by Minster for Children Katherine Zappone. The Minister has said she is keen to regulate the sector and give greater reassurance to parents over the quality of childminding services.

Ms Zappone has previously said children availing of childminding should have the benefit of similar standards as those in childcare or creches where there are regulations over qualified staff and minimum standards.

This view contrasts with some, such as those of Minister for Transport Shane Ross who has called for grandparents and other relatives who take up childminding duties to be rewarded.

The report indicates that financial support mechanisms – such as tax relief on income up to €15,000 – should be reconfigured to encourage childminders to register as part of a reformed regulatory and support system.

A €1,000 childcare development grant should also be included in this system of support.

Among the minimum standards childminders should meet, according to the report, include first-aid training, written references, insurance and a certificate (level-five award) in childminding.

Childminders should also be Garda vetted and be required to have a health and safety risk assessment and fire safety plan.

It says there should be a phased approach to regulation, commencing by the end of the first three years of a new childminding strategy. Substantial groundwork would be required to support this move, it adds.

The report notes that regulating the sector will be a “challenge” and it will be difficult to implement changes to the childminding system.

This is because most value a “home from home setting” with known people, more than a system where childminders have qualifications, training and inspections.

However, it notes a well-supported regulatory system in France as a successful model where a “thriving” childminding sector flourishes.

By contrast, in England the number of registered childminders has been falling due to concerns over paperwork and bureaucracy, states the report.

In Ireland, the number of registered childminders with authorities has always been low and has been falling in recent years, down from 257 in 2011 to about 120 today.

Childminders have regularly expressed their dissatisfaction with current regulations which, they say, are not designed for childminding settings.