The “Growing Up in Ireland” study has found that, despite being responsible for almost a third of all infants in some form of childcare, 55% of childminders have no recognised qualification or training.
Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald, who launched the latest report, insisted that more people wanting to work with children were taking further education courses, ensuring improved quality.
“We are seeing improving qualifications in childcare centres,” Ms Fitzgerald said.
“More people now do Fetac (Further Education and Training Awards Council) training and we are going to make it obligatory that you have qualifications if you’re going to work in a childcare centre.” The study revealed that 22% of childminders hold this qualification.
Nearly 6% had a higher education qualification, almost 14% had completed some sort of related course, and 3.5% had been awarded a childcare qualification from outside Ireland.
The remaining 55% had no formal qualification at all.
The report pointed out that while childminders caring for three or fewer children are not required by Irish law to have a formal qualification and are exempt from regulation, promoting training and qualification among them would “advance the quality of care”.
The report also found that 40% of infants were in some form of childcare at nine months, with 42% of those being looked after by relatives, 31% by home-based childminders and 27% being cared for in a childcare centre.
Childminders who look after more than three children at once are required by law to notify the Health Service Executive.
“The importance of paid childminders for the care of infants in Ireland is not well recognised, as much literature on childcare focuses on centre-based care, and some debates on childcare do not recognise the significance of the role of childminders,” said the report, written by Dr Frances McGinnity, senior researcher at the Economic and Social Research Institute.
“Given the importance of quality of care for child development noted in the international literature, this raises the issue of childcare qualifications for childminders.”
Meanwhile, the vast majority of relatives who parents rely upon to look after their children had no formal childcare qualification.
More information is available on the Growing Up in Ireland website.
How much is free childcare costing you?
All three- and four-year-olds in England will be entitled to 15 hours of free childcare a week from 1 September. Ross Watson, CYPNow, asks what providing an extra 2.5 hours of free childcare will mean for parents and providers.
Two-and-a-half hours of free childcare a day is not enough time to get anything done, according to Belle Kaur, whose three-year-old son Jason currently attends the nursery at Fox Hollies Children’s Centre in Acocks Green, Birmingham, each morning. “It is hell doing the day-to-day essentials like shopping. He has tantrums in the car and in the shopping centres,” she says.
Like every other three and four-year-old in England, Jason is currently eligible for 12.5 hours of childcare a week under the government’s free entitlement scheme. Kaur uses her free hours over five days, paying extra for Jason to stay longer on Wednesdays and Fridays.
But from 1 September the Kaurs will be eligible for an extra 2.5 hours of childcare a week under government plans to extend the free entitlement to 15 hours a week for all three and four-year-olds. The new rules are also more flexible, allowing parents to use all their hours over a minimum of three days if they wish. Local authorities are also encouraged to work around the needs of individual families, even allowing parents to use their free childcare allowance for up to 10 hours a day.
Nurseries are charging parents for government-funded childcare and reimbursing them at a later date, despite a legal duty to provide care free at the point of delivery, CYP Now has learned.
Currently, all three- and four-year-olds are entitled to 12.5 hours of free childcare every week, but this is set to increase to 15 hours from September.
Parents have begun to complain that they are being charged for free childcare, and refunded only at the end of the month or term.
The Code of Practice on the free entitlement to nursery education will be implemented from September, the Government has confirmed, despite pre-election promises by the Conservatives to suspend it.
The news will come as a blow to some nursery owners who were hoping the Tories would fulfil their pledge to postpone the Code and allow settings to charge top-up fees.
A Government spokesperson said, ‘The new Code of Practice will come into force in September, to ensure that local authorities are working to a clear common framework in implementing the extension to 15 hours. However, we will be looking to streamline this guidance next year.’