Childminders face prosecution if they don't register with Tusla

Government proposal will require childminders to undergo training and Garda vetting

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said the changes to the sector would be brought in gradually. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said the changes to the sector would be brought in gradually. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Any childminder looking after children in their home who is not registered with Tusla will face prosecution under plans being rolled out by the Government.

Toby Wolfe, principal officer at the Department of Children, said it would be a “legal requirement” for all non-relative childminders to register with the agency and to meet a range of standards if they wished to remain in business.

He was speaking at the publication of a draft childminding action plan and a consultation process on the plan, which will see the mostly informal sector regulated and standards imposed. Parents or guardians using childminders will, as result, be able to avail of childcare supports.

Legislation will be drawn up and implemented over the course of the next five years requiring that childminders undergo formal training and are Garda vetted. Their homes will also have to be inspected to ensure they meet minimum requirements.

Legal requirement

Asked whether childminders would be able to continue to operate outside the regulatory framework, Mr Wolfe said: “Once the regulations have been brought in and the primary legislation is changed it will be a legal requirement for childminders working in their own homes to register with Tusla, as is the case with for any centre-based service providing early-learning care, and now school-age childcare as well.

“I should stress the legislation introducing that requirement will only be brought into force when we have the regulations right. We will be designing regulations for childminding in parallel with working on the legislation. It will absolutely be a legal requirement but it won’t apply to relatives [minding children].”

Asked if childminders operating from their own homes who do not register with Tusla when legislation was enacted would face prosecution, he said: “Yes, they would.”

Among the conditions in the plan are that all non-relative childminders who are registered may earn up to €15,000 per year tax-free. Support services, including mentoring and continuing professional development, will be provided to registered childminders.

Inspections

Rosaleen O’Connor, a childminder for 22 years in north Dublin, spoke at the event. She said she had been registered with the Health Service Executive and later Tusla for 18 years but four years ago decided to de-register “due to the inspections which are very unrealistic for working in a family home”.

“A lot of childminders, more I reckon, would register if there were more realistic inspections,” she said.

“The €15,000 given to some childminders is another unrealistic amount because after that €15,000 you are taxed on everything and expenses in the home are not taken into consideration.

“Any of the children I have got, when the parents come to me, they know that I am not Tusla registered, they know they can’t receive the benefits of a registered person but they are willing to not take the subsidy.”

Ms O’Connor also questioned the limit of three children per childminder.

“Why can’t the three-child limit be increased if you have no small children of your own. Why can’t that be increased a small amount to earn a decent rate.”

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said the changes to the sector would be brought in gradually and time would be taken to ensure the new legal framework met the needs and concerns of parents, childminders and children.

“This is a really exciting day for us and an important and integral aspect of reforming childcare in Ireland, ” she said. “We want to do it in a way that acknowledges the great work of childminders in the country and also to acknowledge that it it is really important that we move into a territory where the State supports parental choice for childminding.”