Just 81 in-home childminders are on Tusla register

Seven counties have no registered minders while Dublin has only nine

Childminders are required to register if they are caring for seven school-age children or six mixed-age children. Photograph: iStock

Childminders are required to register if they are caring for seven school-age children or six mixed-age children. Photograph: iStock

 

There are only 81 registered in-home childminders in Ireland, and seven counties have none registered at all, new figures show, despite a legal requirement in many cases.

The number of registrations is at its lowest since Tusla began collecting data three years ago.

Since 2016, there is a legal requirement for in-home minders to register with the child and family agency if they are minding four or more pre-school children. And from February of this year, minders have been required to register if they are caring for seven school-age children or six mixed-age children. Registration with the agency costs €40.

A minder’s own children are included in the numbers only if the childminder has pre-school-aged children.

Childminders who care for fewer children than this are not obliged to register but can do so voluntarily with a local childcare committee. According to figures released to The Irish Times following a Freedom of Information request, the number of registered childminders dropped from 90 in 2018 to 81 in the second quarter of this year.

Cavan, Kerry, Leitrim, Longford, Monaghan, Offaly and Roscommon have no registered minders. Dublin – which has more than 430,000 children under the age of 18 according to the 2016 census – has just nine registered childminders.

Limerick had the highest number, with 14, followed by Galway with 13.

Anne Rabbitte, Fianna Fáil’s spokeswoman on children and youth affairs, described the figures as worrying.

“That’s really serious. Right through the midlands there is a complete lack of registered childcare,” she said.

Ms Rabbitte said the department needed to “recognise childminding as a real profession”, adding that the lack of registration made the sector similar to a “black market”.

“Childcare is so expensive,” Ms Rabbitte said. “That figure is worrying because people are going to want to go where they can get some bit of leverage in return financially. Parents want to avail of the same subsidy as children who are going to creches.”

Subsidies

It is estimated that one in 10 children under the age of 12 are cared for by childminders. Parents of children who access registered childcare can avail of a subsidy under the Affordable Childcare Scheme, but not if their children are with unregistered minders.

Registration, however, could potentially bring some childminders, not currently registered for tax, into the tax net.

Early Childhood Ireland said the demand for in-house childcare services “underlines the importance of this care option for many families in Ireland”.

“It also highlights the need to work towards a model of support for both childminders and the families availing of their services,” a spokeswoman said.

A report by the European Commission on childcare in Europe, published in July 2019, found the regulation system in Ireland indicated a “potentially large under-supply of regulated home-based provision”.

Speaking in the Dáil last month, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said she was “strongly committed to supporting positive reform” of the sector.

A spokesman for the department said “no major increase in the number of registered childminders will be possible until the removal of legal exemptions in the Child Care Act 1991”.