Thursday, 5 March 2020
Department of Children and Youth Affairs
1090. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the current position of public consultation on the draft childminding action plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3330/20]
The Draft Childminding Action Plan sets out a phased approach to achieving Government commitments in First 5,the Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and Families. The Draft Childminding Action Plan is firmly based on the 2018 report of the Working Group on Reforms and Supports for the Childminding Sector ('Pathway to a Quality Support and Assurance System for Childminding'), which was chaired by Childminding Ireland and included a number of representatives from the early learning and care sector.
Childminding is of huge importance to children, to parents, to our economy, and to our society. Until now, however, it has not received the support it deserves in terms of public funding or our system of quality assurance or regulation. The Draft Action Plan aims to recognise the valuable work that childminders do and to ensure they can access the supports they need. The Draft Action Plan sets out positive reform proposals to bring childminding into the mainstream of regulation, funding and support.
I am very aware of the unique nature of a childminding service; that is why I established the expert group and called for the development of a bespoke plan for childminders. The Draft Childminding Action Plan makes clear that the intention is to develop regulations that are specific and appropriate to childminding, and to develop customised training and resources to support the quality of childminding provision, including through the development of staffed local networks to provide professional development and peer support. The new regulation and inspection process for childminders is yet to be developed, but the Draft Childminding Action Plan stresses the importance of regulation and inspection being proportionate and appropriate to the home and family setting in which childminders work.
The public consultation process on the Draft Action Plan took place between August and November 2019. It was widely publicised on social media, through National Voluntary Organisations (including Childminding Ireland) and City/County Childcare Committees. The consultation process was carefully designed to ensure strong participation by childminders. In particular, a series of 32 focus groups were organised around the country by the local City and County Childcare Committees, with the help of the new team of regional Childminding Development Officers that I have put in place. The focus groups were organised in evenings to make it easier for childminders to take part.
In addition to the focus groups in the evenings, an Open Policy Debate took place in the daytime to facilitate participation by other stakeholders. There was also an online survey and a call for submissions. The online survey had 467 respondents, of whom 57% were childminders.
A report on the consultation process is being finalised for publication. Revisions to the Draft Plan are currently being made in response to the consultation findings.