I propose to take Questions Nos. 210 to 212, inclusive, together.
Pre-school services are subject to the Child Care (Pre-School Services) (No. 2) Regulations 2006, as provided for under Part VII of the Child Care Act 1991. The enactment, through the Child and Family Agency Act 2013, of amendments to the Child Care Act 1991 underpins a number of key reforms being introduced as part of the Pre-School Quality Agenda. To provide for the implementation of the changes to the Act it will be necessary to amend or make additions to the current Regulations in a number of areas, and these are currently being considered. Following the introduction of the Child and Family Agency Act 2014 the inspection of pre-schools and the enforcement of the Regulations are now the responsibility of the new Child and Family Agency.
Section 58 of the Child Care Act 1991 provides for exemptions to the requirements of Part VII of the said Act, including childminders taking care of not more than three pre-school children from different families, who are not subject to the Child Care (Pre-School Services) (No. 2) Regulations 2006. This exemption recognises parental choice to place children with friends and neighbours, and the challenges of the over-regulation of the more informal arrangements chosen by parents. Such childminders are encouraged to voluntarily register their service with their local City or County Childcare Committee. Both registered and voluntarily registered childminders can avail of the Childminders Tax Exemption which exempts childminding earnings of up to €15,000 from income tax. My Department will continue to actively promote the voluntary registration of childminding services and the participation of childminders in quality and training programmes. However, the Department is not in a position to prevent parents from entering into informal arrangements with childminders who are outside the scope of the Regulations.
Childcare services subject to the Regulations are required to obtain Garda vetting for all childcare workers. Work on the development of Ireland's first Early Years Strategy for children aged up to 6 years is underway in my Department. The issue of how best to regulate the childminding sector is being considered as part of this process. It is expected that the Strategy will be finalised later this year.