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Thursday 14 December 2017

Grannies and casual childminders face vetting to earn new €1,000 subsidy

Jim Daly TD Picture: Tom Burke
Jim Daly TD Picture: Tom Burke
Allison Bray

Allison Bray

Grandparents and other casual childminders face fast-track garda vetting if they want to get a new Government subsidy.

The new Affordable Childcare scheme requires background checks on childminders before they get the payments of up to €1,000 per year.

But only about 130 of the estimated 20,000 people working as childminders have been formally vetted, which is needed in order to be registered by child welfare agency Tusla.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs is now set to offer speedier background checks on any of the hildminders currently not registered.

This would include relatives such as grandparents and in-laws, according to West Cork TD Jim Daly, who chairs the Government's Children and Youth Affairs committee.

Due to the sheer numbers of relatives, friends and neighbours who currently act as casual childminders, he said it could take "decades" to have them registered using the stringent standards currently used by Tusla.

These involve garda vetting and having a childcare certificate for childminders caring for more than three non-related children outside their homes.

"So you have about 18,500 or 19,000-plus childminders that are not registered with Tusla and the Government cannot be providing subsidies (to them)," he said during a panel discussion on early childhood education yesterday.

"So what the Government is proposing to do is run in tandem a sort of certification process where the Department (of Children and Youth Affairs) will oversee that any parent who wishes to apply for the subsidy can send in details of their gran, of their sister-in-law, of their neighbour who is minding their children and the Government will do a background check - obviously garda vetting - and a couple of references from local people and that will suffice," he said.

"You might have someone come in from another county, from another country or from another jurisdiction coming into the area offering their services as a childminder so you have to have a basic level of background checks and vetting and that will apply across the board. It's to recognise the existing system and bring them into the fold," he said. "But we have a responsibility - we can't just say 'no, it's fine, you're a sister-in-law'.

"There could be another adult in that house ... so we have to be responsible when we bring this in," he said.

As a result, a working group with the Department of Children is currently examining standards that will be applied.

Bernadette Orbinski Burke, CEO of Childminding Ireland who is chairing the working group, said: "We are looking at all things that would give quality assurance to the Government and parents and preserve the 'home-from-home' ethos. We're looking at a range of options that would include garda vetting."

Mr Daly said child minders need not fear any tax implications of being registered if they were not running a creche or working as a professional child minder. "There won't be tax implications for these people. At the moment you can earn up to €300 a week minding children and be tax free. So there isn't going to be automatic tax implications, that would be the first thing that people will fear in declaring that I'm minding my nephew or my neighbour's child," he added.

Irish Independent

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