Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Ceisteanna (142)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

142. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the new regulations under the Childcare Support Act 2018 have forced crèches to reduce the number of places they are offering which will leave many children without childcare; her plans to accommodate those children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22946/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) (Registration of School Age Services) Regulations 2018, followed an amendment to the Child Care Act 1991 that was made in the Childcare Support Act 2018. These regulations enable us to begin the long sought after quality assurance of school-age childcare services which is required to best serve children and families

In setting regulatory requirements, the primary consideration must be children’s health, safety and well-being, and these were the primary factors considered when setting a minimum 1:12 adult-to-child ratio in the new Regulations for school-age childcare. The 1:12 ratio was selected following consultation with an expert group on school-age childcare standards, which included a range of sector representatives among its members. The working group report that was submitted to my Department in 2018 recommended a 1 adult to 11 children ratio. A 1:8 ratio was recommended in a 2005 working-group report. My Department ultimately decided on a 1:12 ratio.

I do not expect to see an overall reduction in the number of school-age childcare places as a result of the School-Age Childcare Regulations. In setting the ratio requirement, current practice was considered; while some providers have until now operated higher ratios than 1:12, many have operated lower ratios. The 1:12 ratio requirement is close to the working group recommendation, and while some individual services may have to recruit additional staff or reduce places (if they choose to keep their staffing level constant), this will not be true for all school-age childcare services. Nevertheless, following discussions with sector representatives, to give service providers time to adjust to the new requirement I made a decision earlier this year to delay the date on which the 1:12 ratio comes into force by 6 months, from 18th February to 18th August 2019. This decision recognised the difficulty for providers of adjusting their staffing ratio in the middle of the school year. If, in spite of the adjustment period for service providers, any parent finds it difficult securing a school-age childcare place for September, they should contact their local City / County Childcare Committee, which is available to support parents to locate childcare within their locality. Local contact details for City / County Childcare Committees can be found at www.myccc.ie. The introduction of Regulations for school-age childcare is a new and important development. While the Regulations introduced this year are limited in scope, I intend to introduce comprehensive Regulations that build on the initial Regulations as well as on the recommendations made by the standards working group.

Public consultation is built into the process of developing these comprehensive Regulations for school-age childcare. On May 21st my Department launched the public consultation process. The consultation comprises an open call for submissions and an online public survey which are open until 5th July, as well as a focus group session with School Age Childcare Providers and an Open Policy Debate, both of which will take place in June. Further information and links to the online survey and call for submissions can be found on the DCYA website www.dcya.gov.ie.