4th May, 2016
Dr James Reilly, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, has today signed new Child Care Regulations (the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016) which will come into effect on a phased basis from 30th June 2016. The new Regulations provide for pre-school services, that is, those services catering for children under the age of 6 who are not attending primary school.
The Minister said that he is publishing the Regulations now to give Tusla the Child and Family Agency and early years service providers some time to prepare for the commencement of the new Regulations by way of training and information sessions.
The revised Regulations were prepared following the amendments to the Child Care Act 1991 which were made under the Child and Family Agency Act 2013, and which were required to underpin a number of key reforms to the sector to improve quality standards.
Some of the main changes in the new Regulations are:
The 2013 Act introduced the requirement for early years services to be registered with Tusla before being permitted to operate. The new Regulations set out the procedures that will be carried out by Tusla when deciding whether to register a pre-school service, including the documents that a prospective service provider must submit with her or his application. Before deciding on registration, Tusla will carry out a pre-registration visit to ensure that the premises are fit-for-purpose as a pre-school facility.
The new Regulations require that all staff members working directly with children in pre-school services must hold at least a major award in early childhood care and education at level 5 on the National Qualifications Framework, or a qualification deemed by the Minister to be equivalent. This requirement will come into effect for newly-registering services on 30th June 2016, and for existing services on 31st December 2016.
The new Regulations require that all pre-school services demonstrate that they have a clear management structure in place, and that each member of staff is aware of her or his specific role and responsibilities. All staff must be appropriately supervised and provided with training where necessary, including training in the pre-school service’s policies and procedures.
As well as ensuring that all staff have been Garda vetted, the service provider must ensure that robust human resources procedures are in place for the recruitment of staff, including the seeking and careful scrutiny of references. The onus is then on the registered provider to ensure that staff new to the service are supervised and monitored on an ongoing basis. It is essential that providers have a proper management structure, and proper procedures in place, to ensure that their staff are properly managed and supervised in order to ensure that the children attending that service receive the highest quality care.
“I am delighted that the new Child Care Regulations are now being published”, the Minister said. “The new registration regime, which will require that a service be registered with the Agency before opening, will help to ensure that children attend services that are suitable, of high quality, and safe. The regime will also require services to re-register every three years, and Tusla can impose conditions on the service if it does not comply with the Regulations.”
The Minister also referred to the regulatory requirement that from the end of this year all staff working directly with children in pre-school services will have to hold a minimum qualification at Level 5 on the National Qualifications Framework. “This is a very important development, and we know from international experience that it will raise the quality of the service for children.” The Minister acknowledged the hard work undertaken by staff in the sector to meet this requirement.
The Minister added that he wanted to assure the early years sector that Tusla, in association with his Department and other relevant organisations, would provide information sessions to service providers before embarking on any new inspection process. “In particular”, he said, “the Quality and Regulatory Framework that will be used by Tusla for inspections will be the subject of consultation with stakeholders before it is finalised later in the year, and will be made available to service providers so that they are aware of what will be expected of them.”
Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016