More than half of home-based childminders have no formal childcare qualifications, a new report has found.
Despite being responsible for almost a third of all infants in some form of childcare, 55% of childminders have no recognised qualification or training.
Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald, who launched the latest report from the Growing Up in Ireland study, insisted that more people wanting to work with children were taking further education courses, ensuring improved quality. We are seeing improving qualifications in childcare centres," Ms Fitzgerald said. "More people now do Fetac (Further Education and Training Awards Council) training and we are going to make it obligatory that you have qualifications if you're going to work in a childcare centre."
The report found that 40% of infants aged nine months were in some form of childcare - with 42% of those being looked after by relatives, 31% by non-relatives - home-based childminders - and 27% being cared for in a childcare centre.
Ms Fitzgerald said given the fact that relatives, such as grandparents, are heavily relied upon for childcare, the issue of qualifications does not arise in that area.
According to the study - entitled Mothers' Return to Work and Childcare Choices for Infants in Ireland - 22% of childminders had a Fetac qualification. Nearly 6% had a higher education qualification, almost 14% had completed some sort of related course, and 3.5% had been awarded a childcare qualification from outside Ireland. The remaining 55% had no formal qualification at all.
The report pointed out that while childminders caring for three or fewer children are not required by Irish law to have a formal qualification and are exempt from regulation, promoting training and qualification among them would "advance the quality of care".
Childminders who look after more than three children at once are required by law to notify the Health Service Executive.
"The importance of paid childminders for the care of infants in Ireland is not well recognised, as much literature on childcare focuses on centre-based care, and some debates on childcare do not recognise the significance of the role of childminders," said the report, written by Dr Frances McGinnity, senior researcher at the Economic and Social Research Institute. "Given the importance of quality of care for child development noted in the international literature, this raises the issue of childcare qualifications for childminders."
Meanwhile, the vast majority of relatives who parents rely upon to look after their children had no formal childcare qualification. However 6% of childminding relatives did have a Fetac award and 9% some other type of childcare course under their belt.