Many childminders unaware of impending regulation, committee hears

Minders will have to register with Tusla, get garda vetting, have insurance and face inspections

Concerns were raised at the committee that childminders would bear the cost of this new administration and regulation, and witnesses said grants would be needed. Photograph: iStock

Concerns were raised at the committee that childminders would bear the cost of this new administration and regulation, and witnesses said grants would be needed. Photograph: iStock

 

Childminders who work from their own home need to be involved in the State’s new plan to regulate the sector, as many are unaware of the impending changes, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

The Joint Committee on Children, Disability, Equality and Integration met today to consider the draft National Action Plan for Childminding 2021-2028.

The plan sees wide-reaching reforms of the sector. Childminders will have to register with Tusla, receive garda vetting, have insurance, face inspections and attend various training.

However, childminders and representatives from the early childhood sector warned that many childminders are completely unaware of the impending changes, and a significant advertising and awareness campaign is needed.

Currently, there is no centralised registration system for childminders, but it is estimated there are 15,000 childminders in Ireland. Less than 80 are currently registered with Tusla.

Concerns were raised at the committee that childminders would bear the cost of this new administration and regulation, and witnesses said grants would be needed.

TDs and senators heard that if childminders were not supported with this added financial cost, they would be forced to charge parents more money or they would leave the sector entirely.

The committee were told this would be detrimental to families in more rural areas, who cannot avail of centre-based care.

Mary Walsh, chair of Childminding Ireland, said she was the only childminding representative on the group who formed the draft plan, and in future, more consultation is needed.

Bernadette Orbinski Burke, also of Childminding Ireland, said any regulation needed to be simple.

Ida Lane of the Association of Childhood Professionals added that centre-based childcare had 30 years to become regulated, but under the current draft plan, childminders who work from home must meet all the new regulations in seven years.

“We need to build up strong trust, then we will be successful. If we rush into this headlong, we are heading for trouble.”

She also warned against “over-regulation”, otherwise there would be an exodus from the sector.

Mary Walsh of Childminding Ireland, added that childminders did not want their homes turned into “mini crèches”.

She warned against home-based childminders being forced to follow the same procedures as large childcare centres, which have to follow numerous policies and complete a lot of paperwork.

“I don’t want to have to create a sleep room, I don’t want to close off my kitchen... it’s that distinction, that the house remains a home.”

Teresa Heaney, chair of Early Childhood Ireland, said the state was obliged to inspect childcare settings.

However, she agreed with Ms Walsh that childminder’s homes should remain like a home away from home for children, and added that parents had chosen this childcare setting for a reason.