On 19 November 2018, The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone TD (the “Minister”) published “First 5”. This document set out a 10-year vision to improve quality in the Early Learning and Care sector and included a commitment to review current Regulations, to have a graduate-led workforce and to double public investment. Importantly, “First 5” also set out the Minister’s intention to establish a professional regulator, in conjunction with the Department of Education and Skills, for the early learning and care sector in First 5. The Minister expects that this regulator would operate a fitness to practice function which would remove any practitioners who do not provide the correct standard of care.
Working Group – New Professional Regulatory Body
On 26 August 2019, The Minister welcomed the announcement that the Association of Childhood Professionals (ACP), SIPTU, and PLÉ (the Irish Association of Academics in Early Childhood Education and Care in Higher Education) established a working group to explore the setup of a professional regulatory body for childcare workers.
A major programme of reform for the profession is currently being planned through the “Workforce Development Plan”. The Workforce Development Plan will chart a route to professionalisation of the workforce in early learning and care and school-age childcare over the decade ahead, including achieving a graduate-led workforce by 2028 and raising the profile of careers in the profession.
Draft Childminding Action Plan
On 29 August 2019, the Department of Children and Young Affairs (the “Department”) published the Draft Childminding Action Plan (the “Action Plan”). The Action Plan envisages the following key reforms:
- Support and regulation in the sector will be extended to all paid, non-relative childminders, with a “phased approach” to the reforms (final implementation expected by 2028). To do this, the Action Plan sets out an incremental and supportive pathway to regulation.
- Childminders will have to be Garda vetted and be trained in first aid.
- Childminders will also be required to have “bespoke” qualifications, although the Department has not yet decided what level these will be at.
- Financial supports and training opportunities will be opened up for childminders to assist them to meet qualification requirements and to provide a continuous professional development system.
- The Action Plan mainly addresses childminders who work in their own homes and who are self-employed. It does not propose to regulate nannies or au-pairs.
As well as publishing the Draft Action Plan, the Minister also launched a public consultation process on the proposals. Childminders, parents, other stakeholders and anyone interested in childminding are being invited to share their views. A call for submissions and online survey are available on the Department’s website (click here for link), and a number of focus groups of childminders will take place over the coming weeks.
The outcome of this consultation will be watched with interest as this will have a bearing on the completion of the final Action Plan for the approval of Government.
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