The 2019 Childcare Barometer published recently by Early Childhood Ireland, referred to by the Deputy, showed that almost 90% of Irish adults believe that childminders should be Garda vetted and have basic first aid and other relevant training. I warmly welcome this finding as I am strongly committed to high quality early learning and care and my Department is taking important steps to ensure childminders are central to the provision of early learning and care.
My Department is currently finalising a Childminding Action Plan, which will contain short, medium and long term goals. This action plan will set out steps to move incrementally towards the wider regulation, support and professional development of childminders, along with a timescale to bring them into mainstream provision. A National Childminding Coordinator has recently been recruited who, along with six regional Childminding Development Officers to be appointed in the coming months, will spearhead implementation of the first phase of the Childminding Action Plan.
In relation to Garda vetting, childminders who care for four or more pre-school children from different families or seven or more children of any age (other than their own children) fall within the scope of regulation, and must therefore register with Tusla, be Garda-vetted and meet other regulatory requirements (e.g. having first aid training). The Childminding Action Plan will map out a pathway for bringing a much wider cohort of childminders within the scope of regulation, who will then also be required to be Garda-vetted and meet other regulatory requirements. My Department is actively engaging with the Department of Justice and Equality on the matter of Garda vetting in the context of these plans.
In relation to training for childminders, much is already available in this regard, and I intend to increase the training available through the forthcoming Childminding Action Plan. The Childminding Action Plan will include plans to support the upskilling of childminders though both initial training and continuing professional development.
More immediately, the Children First Act 2015 imposes statutory obligations on certain people to report child protection concerns at or over a defined threshold to Tusla. My Department established the National Early Years Children First Committee in 2013, who are responsible for rolling out child protection training across the early learning and care sector. This training has been made available to all childminders who are registered with Tusla. A free online 'Introduction to Children First' e-learning module has also been developed by Tusla and is available for everyone to complete. Other resources in relation to safeguarding training will become available in 2019, which childminders will be able to avail of. In addition, through the City and County Childcare Committees my Department will shortly make available financial support for early learning and care providers to receive First Aid Response training, which will be a regulatory requirement from June 2020. In addition to one funded place for every registered provider, I am also providing ring-fenced funding for a number of childminders to take part in the training.