Speech for Minister Frances Fitzgerald T.D., for Children
Launch of National Childminding Week and new Childminding Ireland Website - 21st April 2012
I would like to thank Ms Patricia Murray, Chief Executive of Childminding Ireland and the organisers of this event for their kind invitation. I am delighted to be here to join with you all to officially launch this year’s National Childminding Week and also to launch Childminding Ireland’s new website.
The theme of this year’s Childminding Week is A,B,C 123 ‘Imagination Sets You Free,’ highlighting what Childminders can do to help develop Children’s Literacy and Numeracy skills.
In line with the Programme for Government, the Minister for Education & I have prioristed improvements in Literacy and Numeracy as a national cause of the highest priority.
The implementation of the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy places particular emphasis on the role of early childhood care and education settings in supporting children’s oral language development and communication skills and calls for a concerted effort by all of the organisations working in the area of family and childcare support.
Having travelled the country and having met with so many early years practitioners and City and County Childcare Committees, I must say I very impressed with the range of activities being run at local level to promote Literacy and Numeracy and I very much welcome the initiative shown here this week by Childminding Ireland.
Indeed I wish to take this opportunity to commend your organisation on the fantastic work you do all-year-round. I know that the Childminding Ireland provides a very important support structure to childminders and has provided a broad range of training and guidance to individual childminders over many years. I would like to acknowledge the contribution of Childminding Ireland to the ongoing development of your sector.
As Minister I want today to state very clearly the importance I attach to childminding, which I see as a vitally important element of childcare provision in this country. Indeed I have come to believe that we need even more of a focus on childminding as an optimum model for the provision of care in particular for the under-one cohort and in the provision of after-school care.
National Childminding Week, which I am launching today therefore provides a valuable opportunity to highlight the positive contribution that childminding makes to communities throughout the country and particularly those in more isolated locations who would not have easy access to formal childcare services. Childminding Week also provides an opportunity for members to come together to discuss issues of common interest and I wish everybody involved in the week all the very best.
Today I am also delighted to launch the new Childminding Ireland website; an exciting development and will prove invaluable for both parents and childminders. I think we can all appreciate how the web has become the major source of information for many as well as an important forum for commercial and social activity. For parents looking for quality childcare or for professionals or students seeking information this website is the first port of call in that it provides a broad range of information on the availability of childminding services as well as information for childminders and those that might be considering establishing a new service. The site contains information on Childminding Ireland’s strategy and aims, training, grant application procedures and news on childcare developments at national level.
For my own part as Minister, I wish to refer to some of the work of my Department in support of childminding.
As many of you will be aware, the Childminding Development Grant was, because of budgetary considerations, the grant was withdrawn early in 2011, and I know that this was a major disappointment to childminders endeavoring to improve the quality of their service.
However in Budget 2012, I was successful in securing additional funding which allowed for the re-introduction of this grant. Childminders throughout the country can once again avail of this important support, which I know is often used to buy equipment and toys or to undertake minor adaptations to enhance the quality of the services provided. This development will help to further enhance the childminding sector and assist providers in improving the quality of their services, ensuring that parents have an additional choice in relation to their childcare arrangements.
As I have already stated, I see childminding as a vitally important element of childcare provision in this country and I see an important future for childminding. To this end, I have directed that as part of the preparation of Ireland’s first-ever Early Years Strategy, which I recently announced, the future of childminding, including all relevant issues from supports to standards, will be a key topic for consideration.
Today, I am also happy to announce the establishment of an Expert Advisory Group to help guide the Strategy. This group will bring together a wealth of knowledge and expertise, both practice-based and academic in the areas of early years education, children’s development, psychology and health as well as social inclusion; and of course service provision. I am delighted that the group will be chaired by Dr. Éilis Hennessy, an expert in early childhood care from the School of Psychology in UCD. I am also very happy to announce that Childminding Ireland will be represented on this group by Patricia Murray.
In conclusion, I know that the parents who have the benefit of a Childminder will attest to what a valuable service it is. I wish to thank Childminding Ireland, the City and County Childcare Committees and the childminders nationally for all your work and your continued commitment to providing quality childcare services to families and children. It now gives me great pleasure to officially launch National Childminding Week 2012.