In 2002, the Health Service Executive (HSE) agreed to fund a Childminding Advisory Officer post in each county, who would work with the 33 City and County Childcare Committees (CCCs) funded under the Childcare Programme, implemented by the then Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. While Childminding Advisory Officers were established in most county areas they were not always located with the local CCC.
In recent years, HSE funding for the Childminding Advisory Officer posts has gradually decreased, and is no longer in place in some areas. I asked officials in my Department to engage with the City and County Childcare Committees (CCCs) on this issue and to establish the position in relation to these posts in each city and county childcare committee area. A table which outlines the position as indicated by the CCCs is being collated and will issued directly to the Deputy in the coming days.
The responses received do reflect the reduction in support for these post which I understand is due to pressure on HSE resource and the need to prioritise funding to other areas of front-line services. While this is not a welcome development, I would point to the fact that the CCCs are now well-established and effective bodies at local level, and that supporting the childminding sector is an integral part of their work. I am satisfied that childminders continue to have access to support, training and advice.
My Department provides annual funding to each CCC to enable them to support and advise all childcare providers at local level. In 2012, the total amount allocated to the CCCs was €11.3m. In addition, in 2012 my Department provided €220,000 to the CCCs for Childminding Development Grants. My Department also provides annual funding, totalling €2.85m in 2012, to seven National Voluntary Childcare Organisations to provide support at a local level to their members. This included €358,000 for Childminding Ireland, the representative body for childminders.
My Department has commenced work on Ireland's first Early Years Strategy. I have received Government approval for the approach I am taking in developing this Strategy as an innovative and dynamic blueprint for the future development of our Early Years sector, aimed at providing a coherent approach to seeking to improve the lives of children from birth to the age of six. One of the policy issues which I have identified for consideration in the preparation of the Early Years Strategy is the development of the child minding sector as a fully-integrated component of early childhood care and education, in particular for the under-one age group.