The safety and protection of children remains the first priority of Government. This is done through the enforcement of regulations which have children at the heart of their implementation.
The removal of childcare providers from the register of early years services is the ultimate sanction by Tusla, the independent statutory regulator for the sector. It comes at the end of an enforcement process during which Tusla makes every effort to support the provider to come into compliance with the regulations.
De-registrations and prosecutions are evidence of Tusla’s robust approach where it finds evidence of disregard for regulations.
I acknowledge that de-registrations can cause significant challenges for parents in finding alternative childcare provision.
I have great sympathy for parents in this situation. Yet, I firmly believe that robust enforcement of the regulations is in children's interests and is the right thing to do. Where a service is removed from the register, the staff of 30 Department-funded city and county childcare committees throughout the country are available to support parents who need help finding an alternative service. Officials in my Department liaise closely with the relevant childcare committee to ensure that everything possible is being done for parents affected by closures. In recent cases, childcare committees have operated extended opening hours to support parents. The childcare committees have also been actively supporting and exploring the development of alternative childcare options in the locality. Tusla has agreed to prioritise or fast-track the registration of any new service wishing to open.
Capacity in the sector has doubled in the past five years and continues to rise. However, I recognise that capacity constraints remain. In 2019, I provided €5.9 million towards the creation of new places within the sector. I hope to announce details for a 2020 capital scheme in the coming months and I encourage providers to consider expansion. In time the draft childminding action plan, which I published in August for public consultation, will have a major impact in increasing capacity in the sector through opening up regulation and funding to childminders.