It is my understanding that the Deputy is referring to the operation and maintenance of the Register of Early Years Services. Tusla is the independent statutory regulator of early learning and care and school-age childcare services in Ireland. My Department does not have a direct role in relation to the processing of registration applications or maintenance of the register.
Registration and regulation of early learning and care services is important to ensure the safety and welfare of children and providers must take their legal responsibilities in this regard seriously.
In order to be registered by Tusla on 1st January 2020, providers must submit an application for re-registration by midnight on 12th December 2019. Providers have been urged to submit their applications in advance of this date, given the large volume of applications expected. The deadline of 12th December is necessary in order to give Tusla time to process all applications and inform applicants of the outcome of their application before 31st December.
The deadline for re-registration has been known to providers since 2016 and appears on their registration certificate. Over the past 18 months Tusla has been engaging with providers in relation to requirements for re-registration, including through a Consultative Forum of stakeholders. Tusla issued further guidance to service providers in August 2019 on specific documentation required on planning permission and fire safety as part of the re-registration process.
On 27th November, my Department issued a letter informing providers that Tusla has revised the time-line for submission of supporting documentation for re-registration. That letter provided clear guidance on what documentation is required by the 12th December deadline and what can be submitted up until 30th June 2020.
I am informed by Tusla that the total number of early years services that are due to re-register by 31 December 2019 is 4,117.
As of Monday morning (9th December), 3,752 services had commenced the application process on the Tusla portal. Of these, 3,081 applications had been submitted via the online portal for assessment. Therefore, 671 applications are commenced but not yet submitted and a just 365 have yet to start the application process.
Submitted applications are currently being processed in batches through a series of specially convened registration panels.
My Department has been working closely with Tusla to ensure adequate staffing is in place to process applications on time, and to ensure effective communications with providers.
In addition, my Department has supported City and County Childcare Committees to give advice and assistance to providers that need help with re-registration.