The Childcare Act 1991 (as amended by the Child and Family Agency Act 2013) requires that all persons wishing to operate a prescribed early years service must be placed on the register of early years services, which is maintained by Tusla - the Child and Family Agency. This is an important legislative requirement.
Continued operation of a service is contingent on registration with Tusla's Early Years Inspectorate which operates as the statutory regulator for the sector. Tusla monitors compliance with the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016 through the registration process and through inspections of services. Any breach of the Child Care Act 1991, or of the Regulations, is taken very seriously by my Department and by Tusla.
Where a service meets the requirements for registration but refuses to cooperate with this process, for example by operating as an unregistered pre-school service, the Tusla Early Years Inspectorate may escalate the matter to the District Court. It is Tusla's policy to seek closure of all unregistered services, and if engagement is not forthcoming from the provider of these services, Tusla will bring the matter before the courts.
The courts have a range of powers under the Child Care Act, including the power to impose fines and to prohibit an individual from providing an early years service. These are generic sanctions allowed for under the Act and are not specific to any particular case.
In February 2019, I signed the School Age Childcare regulations. These allow, for the first time, for the registration of school age childcare services in Ireland. Childcare services already registered with Tusla under the early years regulations have until August 18th to register their school age service. Stand-alone school age childcare services must register with Tusla before May 18. These regulations will be followed by more comprehensive regulations after a further period of consultation.