I am writing to you to let you know that new Child Care Regulations will be published shortly. These new Regulations are one of a suite of measures currently being progressed by my Department with the aim of building the quality of provision across the diversity of early years services.
Amongst the provisions included in the new Regulations is a legal requirement that all staff working directly with children in early years services must hold a minimum level of qualification in a relevant area.
This new legal requirement, which was to be introduced in September 2016, will now come into effect from 31st December 2016.
This later date will give any remaining unqualified staff the time necessary to complete training to meet this requirement. From 31st December 2016, all staff working directly with children in your early years service must hold a major award in Early Childhood Care and Education at Level 5 on the National Qualifications Framework, or the equivalent.
A list of qualifications that that will be recognised for the purpose of these new Regulations is available on my Department’s website (www.dcya.gov.ie). If a staff member at your early years service finds that their existing qualification is not on this list, they may apply to the Department to have their qualification recognised. Details of this process are also available on the website and staff members seeking recognition of their qualification should initiate the process at the earliest opportunity.
Should a member of your staff find that they do not meet the minimum qualification requirement, they will need to access training to meet the December deadline. A Learner Fund is available through my Department to help and details of how to apply for this Learner Fund are available from your local City or County Childcare Committee.
I’m writing to you now to encourage you to ensure that all of your staff members are fully aware of the qualification requirement that is being introduced. This is because unqualified staff members will not be eligible to work directly with children in early years services from 31st December 2016. Therefore, it’s very important that any staff member who doesn’t hold the required minimum qualification should begin training as soon as possible –availing of the Learner Fund as appropriate – so that they can be confident of meeting the minimum qualification requirement in time.
The minimum qualification requirement will also apply to Community Employment participants. The Community Employment programme aims to help people who are long term unemployed to return to the labour market; it is therefore very important that Community Employment participants are supported to meet the qualification requirement, as this will be critical in enabling them to secure employment when their time on the Community Employment programme comes to an end. However, from 31st December 2016, such participants may not be included as part of the staff child ratios unless they hold the minimum qualification. If you believe that the sustainability of your service will be at risk as a result of this, I would ask you to co-operate with a project that is being established to examine this issue and which is being led by your local City or County Childcare Committee. You should contact them as soon as possible to discuss the matter.
2016 will be an important year for early years in Ireland, with a significant increase in public funding of the sector, along with a new resourced strategy to secure the inclusion of children with disabilities. As Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, I look forward to continuing to support and work with the early years sector to ensure that we build the high quality provision we need to achieve the very best outcomes for all our children.