On 29th August, I launched the Draft Childminding Action Plan, for the purpose of public consultation. The Draft Childminding Action Plan aims to bring all childminders within the scope of public funding, supports, and regulations. Up to now most childminders have been exempt from regulation and therefore would be excluded from public funding such as the National Childcare Scheme. Central to the Draft Childminding Action Plan is a proposal to develop new Regulations that are specific to childminders and that are proportionate and appropriate to the home and family setting in which childminders work.
The Draft Action Plan is firmly based on the recommendations of the Working Group on Reforms and Supports for the Childminding Sector, which I established in 2016 and which submitted its report to me last year. The Working Group was chaired by a representative of childminders, indicating my commitment to putting childminders front and centre of decisions on their future and the future of the service they offer children and families.
The public consultation process on the Draft Childminding Action Plan began on 29th August 2019 and ran until November. The process involved several elements: a call for submissions which had 14 responses, an online survey which had 467 responses, 32 Focus Group meetings with childminders at county level (with 205 childminders participating in total) and an Open Policy Debate (with 55 participants).
The findings of the consultation process are currently being analysed. Once the analysis is complete, the Childminding Action Plan will be finalised and then published, in the early part of 2020, once approved by Government.
The final plan will require both primary and secondary legislation. Amendments to primary legislation will be required in order to allow childminders to register with Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, as early years services. Secondary legislation will be required in the form of new Regulations that are specific and appropriate to childminders.
The Draft Childminding Action Plan proposes a phased approach to reform. It proposes that amendments to primary legislation and development of new, childminder-specific Regulations will be developed during Phase 1 of the Action Plan. The Draft Action Plan suggests that it is likely to take two to three years before new Regulations come into force.