Registered childminders demand level playing field on staffing ratio rules in Northern Ireland

Registered childminders in Northern Ireland call for equal staffing ratios as in Great Britain, warning of sector collapse without changes.
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The recent increase in financial support for parents to pay for childcare does nothing for registered childminders, according to trade union Unite.

Unite has warned that large numbers of registered childminders have left the sector due to the failure of consecutive Stormont executives to raise staffing ratios in Northern Ireland to the levels elsewhere in Great Britain.

Unite the union’s registered childminder branch welcomed today’s announcement by education minister Paul Givan that parents will receive 15 per cent additional help with childcare costs and that each child of pre-school age will now be entitled to 22.5 hours of funded educationally-based preschool places. However, the branch warned that these commitments could become meaningless if the large-scale exodus of registered childminders from the sector continues.

Registered childminders in Northern Ireland have children-staff ratios set by the department of health that are only 50 per cent of those enforced in England, Wales, and Scotland. This means their incomes are capped, but registered childminders face the same costs as elsewhere in Great Britain. As a result, the sector has been left financially unsustainable, leading to 361 registered childminders leaving to take up alternative employment, threatening a collapse in the wider childcare sector.

Chair of Unite’s registered childminders branch, Dolores McCormick, said, “Unite submitted a range of recommendations to the department of health in June 2022 which set out steps to ensure a future for our sector – at the top of that list was the need to equalise children-staff ratios in Northern Ireland. Without that being adopted, it is unclear how today’s announcement helps us to sustain operations.

“We need a level playing field for a future for registered childminders in Northern Ireland. It’s long past time that the department of health listened to the voice of childminders – we know what works best for parents and providers. Enough is enough.”

Ryan Fowler

Ryan Fowler is Publisher of Workplace Journal

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