Speech Material for Mr. Brian Lenihan, T.D., Minister for Children for Launch – Irish Presidency of the International Family Day Care Organisation
ISPCC Offices, 30 Lower Baggot St., Monday 2 Oct 2006, 11.00 a.m.
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen and thank you very much for your warm welcome.
First of all I would like to thank Childminding Ireland for their kind invitation. I am delighted to be here today for the launch of the Irish presidency of the International Family Day Care Organisation. Patricia Murray, as CEO of Childminding Ireland, is to be congratulated for earning this honour for Childminding Ireland and indeed, for Ireland generally. It is a measure of how capable and successful Childminding Ireland is considered internationally that it has been asked to carry out this important three-year long task, which amongst other duties includes organising a large international conference in Cork in 2009.
I have said before, and I believe it bears repeating, that as a form of childcare, childminding can sometimes be overlooked. At times, the media can tend to focus on the larger Childcare Centres to the exclusion of Childminding. The parents who have the benefit of a Childminder can attest to what a valuable service it is. This type of childcare is normally very personalised, practical and can be very flexible in meeting the needs of parents. The relationship between the Childminder and the child and his or her family can last for years, even a lifetime. Childminders can offer a warm, loving and stimulating home environment where a child can feel special.
The International Family Day Care Organisation specifically supports and promotes childminding as a childcare option, and it is wonderful that Childminding Ireland, as President of the organisation, can contribute to and develop its various activities including research, networking, the sharing of international experiences and values, and so forth. I am certain that Childminding Ireland will do an excellent job over these next three years and I wish them my very best in their new role.
In recent years, work to develop the childminders’ sector in Ireland has increased. Childminder Advisory Officers now operate throughout the country to provide support for those minding children in their own homes. The City and County Childcare Committees (CCCs), together with the Health Service Executive, facilitate the provision of many childminding services, including advice and training through the Quality Awareness Programme (QAP). This is a 10 hour course designed to give those childminding in the home an awareness of quality childcare.
Completion of this course also qualifies a person to apply for the Childminders Development Grant. Local networks of childminders have been created and the CCCs maintain a list of available Childminders for interested parents.
The introduction in 2006 of a tax exemption for Childminders who mind up to three children and who earn up to €10,000 in income from Childminding, will, I hope, act as an incentive to persons interested in this sector. Those who wish to avail of the exemption must have notified their service to their local City or County Childcare Committee before they can apply to the Revenue Commissioners. I believe it is useful that the exemption encourages this additional contact between CCCs and childminders and will help the CCCs to offer childminders the range of services which I outlined a moment ago.
I am pleased to note that the preparation of National Guidelines for Childminders by my Office in conjunction with the National Childcare Co-ordinating Committee is at an advanced stage and their publication before the end of the year will be another welcome development. Childminding Ireland played a notable role in helping to devise these Guidelines, and I want to acknowledge in particular Patricia Murray’s effort in this regard.
All of these developments and supports will help to further the development of the childminding sector and assist providers in improving the quality of their services. Giving parents a choice in their childcare arrangements is very important.
As Minister for Children, in addition to the Childcare Investment Programmes, both the EOCP and the new National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010, my responsibilities now span the issues of child welfare and protection, early years education, youth justice and the National Children’s Strategy 2000-2010. I believe the housing together of all of these issues in one vision of care, protection and provision for children, will empower me to make real change and progress on these vital issues.
In my capacity as Minister for Children, I now represent the interests of children and young people at the Cabinet table. I think you will agree that this demonstrates the Government’s commitment to childcare and I am honoured to have the unprecedented opportunity to develop and deliver policies and programmes which will help to ensure the well being of our children.
The demand for childcare has changed over the past number of years, with the vast improvements in Ireland’s economic infrastructure and the welcome increase in women’s participation in the labour force. With the numbers of parents now availing of work, training and educational opportunities, the need for childcare services throughout this country is very evident. For a considerable length of time the demand to create new services to meet local needs has been very high throughout the country. The new programme seeks to delivers the new places needed but also to emphasise quality childcare.
The new National Childcare Investment Programme aims to provide a proactive response to the development of quality childcare supports and services which are grounded in an understanding of local needs. It is building on the existing EOCP Programme and will incorporate a number of key objectives including:
- the creation of 50,000 additional childcare places, including 5,000 after school places and 10,000 pre-school places aimed at 3 to 4 year olds;
- improving the quality of early childhood care and education services including part-time, full day care, school age childcare and childminding;
- supporting families and breaking the cycle of disadvantage; and
- supporting a co-ordinated approach to the delivery of childcare which is centred on the needs of the child.
I am fully committed to ensuring that we meet all the targets and objectives set, in a way which takes account of the needs for pre-school childcare, school age childcare and for wrap around services that meet the specific needs of parents and their children. Meeting these targets will require careful planning and incremental development. However, I am confident that I have been given the necessary tools and resources to deliver on them.
The new Childcare Strategy also includes an important provision for a new Training Strategy, for childcare workers and sets an ambitious target of an estimated 17,000 additional places for childcare training by the end of 2010. Childcare training is, I believe, one of the critical cross-cutting issues in terms of delivering the new Programme. To this end, increased funding for training is being allocated between now and 2010 to ensure an adequate supply of qualified childcare workers.
A strategic approach will be adopted by my Office to developing training and standards for childcare workers, with direct linkages to FÁS, the VECs, the National Voluntary Childcare Organisations (NVCOs), and the Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education (CECDE). This will require careful planning and incremental development over the next 5 years as well as close co-operation between the training agencies and providers and direct linkages with the Department of Education and Science.
Other measures announced in Budget 2006 include a new Early Childcare Supplement of €1,000 per annum for all children less than 6 years of age. The payment, effective from 1 April 2006, is a direct, non-taxable payment of €250 per quarter year, in respect of each eligible child. The 1st payment was made in August.
Also with effect from 1 April 2006, Child Benefit was increased by €8.40 per month for the first two children, to €150 per month; and by €7.70 per month for the third and subsequent children, to €185 per month. Like Child Benefit, the Early Childcare Supplement will support all parents irrespective of income or employment status.
As you see from all of these measures, the Government is taking a serious and long-term approach to childcare based on the continued development of sound policies and substantial programmes of investment to ensure the future welfare of our children and to assist their parents in their daily lives. The Government has fully demonstrated its commitment in this regard and it is my intention to demonstrate my personal commitment to these issues during my term as Minister for Children.
In conclusion, I would like to pay tribute to Childminding Ireland for arranging this event, and for taking on the challenging task of being at the helm of an international organisation. I hope that the rewards will be as great as those challenges.
It now gives me great pleasure to formally launch the Irish Presidency of the International Family Day Care Organisation. I thank you all for your attention.