Olive Magill, a registered childminder from Banbridge; Professor Laura Lundy, Director of the Centre for Children's Rights, Queen's University Belfast; Patricia Lewsley-Mooney CBE, NICMA CEO; Fiona Sc
The Northern Ireland Childminding Association (NICMA) has embarked on a dedicated social media campaign to encourage parents to use registered childminders after a substantial drop in the number of registered child care practitioners in the region over the last five years.
Figures held by the Western Health and Social Care Trust (WHSCT) have revealed that between March 2015 and March 2019, there has been a decline of 76 registered childminders. The drop from 580 to 504 in this period represents a 12 per cent decrease and a reduction of 456 day care places for children in the WHSCT area.
NICMA has been providing support services for registered childminders for 35 years across Northern Ireland who between them supply over 16,000 day care places for children.
In NICMA's State of the Sector report (2017) almost 40 per cent said they knew of an unregistered childminder operating in their area. And,55 per cent of all those who took part in the survey believed that unregistered childminders undermined the work of the profession.
Former Children's Commissioner for Northern Ireland, Patricia Lewsley-Mooney is now the Chief Executive of NICMA and is at the forefront of the social media campaign to encourage more people to become registered childminders in the western region. The communications drive is being funded by the Western Childcare Partnership and being backed by Family Support NI.
Speaking to the Derry News Patricia said there are specific reasons why parents should use accredited childminders.
"Firstly, it's a matter of safety. If you are registered you and every person in your house over the age of ten will be put through the Access NI checks. Therefore that provides protection immediately. If you are not registered that doesn't happen.
"Secondly, once you are registered then you will have public liability insurance which means that both children and parents are covered and thirdly, all registered childminders and their homes are inspected on an annual basis," she said.
Mrs Lewsley-Mooney added that she attributes the decline in the numbers of registered childminders in the western region to the fact that some childminders have retired and that many people regard the paperwork and overall bureaucracy involved to be overbearing.
"Also, many people's own children have grown up so they've decided to stop as registered minders and return to other forms of employment," she continued.
During 2018-2019, the Childcare Partnerships commissioned several organisations to carry out a review of the issues impacting on their specific areas of the childcare sector. NICMA reviewed the Childminding sector and identified a need to increase the awareness among parents of employing a registered childminder.
Patricia Lewsley-Mooney added: "We believe that this campaign will reinforce to parents the importance of using a registered childminder and that it may prompt unregistered childminders to get registered. By completing the the relevant mandatory training, Access NI checks and getting public liability insurance in place, they will be helping not only keep children in their care safe, but to protect themselves."
The Minimum Standards for Childminding and Day Care for Children Under 12 formulated by the Department of Health in 2012 are aimed at ensuring quality childcare for all children and parents who use accredited practitioners. For the first time, this means parents who use registered services can expect a consistent minimum care standard.
Parents can be unaware that the use of registered services can reap financial benefits because there are different types of monetary assistance available or tax relief. Employers for Childcare Family Benefits Advice System provide free and confidential advice on the best options for this dependent on specific circumstances. These services can be explored by calling 0800 028 3008.
And, for further information on the overall issue contact Grainne Scullion, Development Officer for NICMA in the Western Trust on 07517472271.
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