The National Childcare Scheme, which will open for applications shortly, will be open to all Tusla-registered childminders. Currently only childminders who care for 7 or more children, or 4 or more preschool children, are able to register with Tusla. To address this limitation while protecting children and providing assurance of the quality of childminding provision, First 5 - the Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families 2018-2028- committed to extend regulation to all other paid, non-relative childminders on a phased basis over the lifetime of First 5.
As a first step, in August of this year I launched a Draft Childminding Action Plan, for the purposes of public consultation. The overall objective of the Draft Action Plan is to improve access to high quality and affordable early learning and care and school-age childcare through childminding. To do this, the Draft Action Plan sets out an incremental and supportive pathway to regulatory reforms.
The Draft Action Plan proposes that the Child Care Act 1991 would be amended to enable registration with Tusla - and participation in the National Childcare Scheme - by a wider cohort of childminders in Phase 2 of the Action Plan. While I am keen for this step to be taken at the earliest possible opportunity, it will be important that this step is only taken when preparations are complete, including: when new Regulations are in place that are proportionate and appropriate to the home setting in which childminders work; when the Tusla Inspectorate is ready to register and inspect all non-relative childminders; and when more detailed costings have been completed on the budgetary implications for the National Childcare Scheme.
The public consultation process on the Draft Action Plan is currently underway and includes a call for submissions, an online survey, an open policy debate and focus groups of childminders. The findings from the consultations will be carefully considered during the revision of the Draft Action Plan.