A new scheme to provide for the simplified registration of thousands of childminders promises to help parents to access Government subsidies for the first time.
Many families have been locked out of the National Childcare Scheme (NCS) as their childcare provider has to be registered with Tusla to be eligible, and only a fraction of those in the industry have signed up.
Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman aims to bring more childminders into “a regulatory space” and said the plan should come into force in late 2023 or early 2024.
He said the scheme under the Childminding Action Plan will create a “simplified regulation system for child-minders, recognising they are very different from centre-based childminders.”
“The system needs to be simpler – get them registered and then parents using their services will be able to draw down the NCS,” he said.
“We have to recognise that childminding has often been quite an ad-hoc part of the economy and there are concerns among childminders about being regulated and what that means for them.
"So we want to build that element of trust with childminders and we want them to see that the regulatory system that we’re looking to create for them isn’t going to be massively onerous.”
Minister O’Gorman said they originally looked at getting the registration system up and running by 2025 but people should be able to register before then.
Meanwhile, additional funding of €121m has been allocated to reduce creche fees by 25pc. From January 2023, those families using registered, early-learning facilities will get a minimum subsidy of €1.40 off their hourly rate, an increase of 90c.
It’s hoped that this will save parents an extra €2,100 off their annual bill per child. With a fee freeze on 2021 rate places in more than 90pc of facilities signed up to the scheme, it’s hope that the increases in NCS subsidies won’t be absorbed by charges.
Meanwhile, the cost of accommodating displaced Ukrainians in Ireland is estimated to reach €700m by the end of this year as the total figure reaches 52,000.
Minister O’Gorman admitted that what was being provided for those fleeing the war in Russia was “diverse in its quality” given the huge pressure the system is under.
“There’s been times, particularly two weeks ago, where we haven’t been able to meet our obligations and that’s not something that I or my Department is content with. So we will always look to provide accommodation and improve standards,” he said.
“It can’t always be maybe what we’d like to be providing people with, in terms of the scale of the challenges I outlined. It is putting pressure on resources and that does mean that the quality isn’t what we would hope and wish for.”