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Saturday 25 November 2017

No inspections for 98pc of small childminders who don't register

Eilish O'Regan and Cormac McQuinn

ONLY a fraction of childminders who look after up to three children in their homes have notified authorities that they are running a business.

As few as 1,250 of around 50,000 of these childminders have voluntarily notified local childcare committees of their existence, despite tax incentives to do so.

It means that tens of thousands of parents are placing their children in the daily care of people who are not subject to any outside scrutiny.

Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald revealed the figures at the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children.

Regulations on garda vetting of staff, training, and inspection only apply to childcare facilities with more than three children.

But the smaller childminders were incentivised to register with an offer to earn up to €15,000 a year tax free.

Fine Gael TD Catherine Byrne quizzed the minister on what kind of policing is in place for these childminders, pointing out that many parents are availing of them for around €50 a week.

Ms Fitzgerald said: "I would encourage a situation where childminders would register. But we have had very poor take up of that despite the tax provision.

"It has not been the tradition in Ireland. Even when they were asked to register they still only got 1,250 out of 50,000 childminders."

Often the issue has been dealt with informally between parents and the childminder.

PROMISED

"I think we will see more parents wanting their childminders to be registered," she added.

The minister again promised to have a system of registration in place from September for new pre-schools wanting to open. This will force them to meet standards before they can start business.

The minister, who was criticised after an RTE 'Prime Time' documentary showed poor standards in some pre-schools, said she is also hoping to get more funding to set up a system of mentoring for workers.

Referring to au pairs, she said she met with the Migrants Rights Association, which expressed concern about the exploitation of foreign workers looking after children here.

Ms Fitzgerald said au pairs should also make themselves known to local childcare committees, which could provide support.

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that one of the creches at the centre of a TV investigation into inadequate care has hired a former detective superintendent as a child protection officer.

The owners of Little Harvard creche in Rathnew, Co Wicklow, have appointed former Det Supt John McCann to oversee child protection. Little Harvard was one of three creches in the RTE 'Prime Time' documentary broadcast in May.

Filming at the creche showed children left in high chairs for hours and staff talking on their phones when they should have been supervising children.

Irish Independent

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