Wednesday, 11 December 2019
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
The Department of Children and Youth Affairs launched a six-week public consultation on the draft childminding action plan at the end of last August. The plan aims to improve childminding in this State, which has been largely unregulated up until now. Estimates for the number of childminders in Ireland vary, from the Department's figure of 19,000 to the 35,000 suggested by the Central Statistics Office. However, as few as 120 childminders are currently registered with Tusla. There is a long road to go to regularise this sector.
The way in which the Government has proceeded with this plan is causing concern to the many thousands of people involved in childminding. Members across the House will have received serious representations from people worried about their future. Despite the draft plan's allowance of up to five years for preparation and transition, childminders are concerned that these changes are going ahead without any real understanding or response to the concerns they have vocalised. Some childminders could be driven out of this important sector by heavy-handed regulation, which would, in turn, affect thousands of parents who rely on the current childminding arrangements to go to work every day. According to the Government's plan, legislation will be implemented over the course of the next five years which would require childminders to gain formal qualifications and be Garda vetted. Their homes would also have to be inspected to ensure they meet certain requirements. In principle, these are sensible proposals, but there is a risk that they will be implemented in a heavy-handed way. I am hearing that concern across the country from those providing this essential service.
Officials have admitted that childminders must sign up to strict standards of care or face prosecution. While Garda vetting is clearly essential, is it really necessary for every childminder to attain a level 5 qualification in order to continue operating?