Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Ceisteanna (558)

Brendan Griffin


558. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her views on a matter (details supplied) regarding childminding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51166/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The Draft Childminding Action Plan sets out a phased approach to achieving Government commitments in First 5, the Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and Families. The Draft Childminding Action Plan is firmly based on the 2018 report of the Working Group on Reforms and Supports for the Childminding Sector ('Pathway to a Quality Support and Assurance System for Childminding'), which was chaired by Childminding Ireland and included a number of representatives form the childcare sector.

Childminding is of huge importance to children, to parents, to our economy, and to our society. Until now however, it has not received the support it deserves in terms of public funding or our system of quality assurance or regulation. The Draft Action Plan aims to recognise the valuable work that childminders do and to ensure they can access the supports they need. The Draft Action Plan sets out positive reform proposals to bring childminding into the mainstream of regulation, funding and support.

I am very aware of the unique nature of a childminding service; that is why I established the expert group and called for the development of a bespoke plan for childminders. The Draft Childminding Action Plan makes clear that the intention is to develop regulations that are specific and appropriate to childminding, and to develop customised training and resources to support the quality of childminding provision, including through the development of staffed local networks to provide professional development and peer support. The new regulation and inspection process for childminders is yet to be developed, but the Draft Childminding Action Plan stresses the importance of regulation and inspection being proportionate and appropriate to the home and family setting in which childminders work.

The public consultation process on the Draft Action Plan was widely publicised on social media, through National Voluntary Organisations (including Childminding Ireland) and City/County Childcare Committees. The consultation process was carefully designed to ensure strong participation by childminders. In particular, a series of 31 focus groups were organised around the country by the local City and County Childcare Committees. The focus groups were designed specifically to enable childminders to take an active part in the consultation. The focus groups were at county level – run through the City and County Childcare Committees and organised with the help of the new team of regional Childminding Development Officers that I have put in place this year. The focus groups were organised in evenings to make it easier for childminders to take part.

In addition to the 31 focus groups in the evenings, an Open Policy Debate took place in the daytime to facilitate participation by other stakeholders. There was also an online survey and a call for submissions. The online survey had 471 respondents, of whom nearly 60% were childminders.

The Draft Childminding Action Plan proposes that a Steering Committee be appointed to drive and oversee the implementation of the Action Plan, and that the Steering Committee should include representation of childminders, parents and other key stakeholders within the early learning and care and school-age childcare sectors. The role of the Steering Committee will include monitoring and review of the implementation of the plan. During Phase 1 it is proposed that four Advisory Groups will be established and will meet, under the auspices of the Steering Committee, and will work with officials in relation to the following: Regulation and Inspection, Qualifications and Training, Funding and Financial Supports and Consultation and Communications.

With the completion of the consultation process, my officials will soon commence a process of consideration of all the feedback received from the various fora and methodologies. A final plan will then be brought for approval which will reflect the results of the extensive consultation exercise.