The Childminding Action Plan is at an advanced stage of development, and I hope to publish the Plan shortly. The Plan will follow through on Government commitments made in First 5, the Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families, which include commitments to extend the regulation to all paid, non-relative childminders on a phased basis over the lifetime of the Strategy (2019-2028), building on the report of the Working Group on Reforms and Supports for the Childminding Sector. This extension of regulation will make National Childcare Scheme subsidies available to more parents and childminders.
Childminders play a central role in the provision of both early learning and care and school-age childcare in Ireland. I can assure the Deputy, and the person whose concerns the Deputy has communicated, that the Childminding Action Plan will recognise the role, function and contribution of childminders and will facilitate their development through proportionate and targeted regulation.
The Childminding Action Plan will be firmly rooted in the Working Group report ‘Pathways to a Quality Support and Assurance System for Childminding’. I established the Working Group on Reforms and Supports for the Childminding Sector in 2016 and asked it to submit short, medium and long-term recommendations for reform and support for the childminding sector. The Working Group submitted its report to me in 2018, and since then officials in my Department have been developing an Action Plan on the basis of the Working Group's recommendations. Like the Working Group's report, the Action Plan will contain short, medium and longer-term actions.
Given the evidence on the benefits of quality childminding for children, and the continued support for childminding among parents, I am keen to extend regulation to allow childminders to take part in the National Childcare Scheme at the earliest possible opportunity. Clearly this requires extensive planning, consultation and a range of supports to be in place.