Ireland legislation and policy framework influencing the childcare sector
This essay will primarily focus on the legislation and policy framework made for the childcare services of Ireland. The law in Ireland provides for regulation and inspection of pre-school childcare services. Under the Child Care Act, 1991, amended by The Child and Family Agency Act 2013. It is charged with ensuring the health, safety, and welfare of preschool children attending services.
Preschool children are the ones who are under 6 years of age and not attending national school or equivalent.
The person in charge must take all reasonable measures to safeguard health, safety, and welfare. Preschool services include preschools, playgroups, creches, nurseries, childminders, and other similar services looking after more than 3 preschool children.
The private profit-making sector has provided childcare services in Ireland. The introduction of the ECCE scheme in Jan 2010 was critical as it provided the universal provision of childcare placements for children in playschool.
- There are various laws and regulations made in Ireland regarding childcare, which promotes their welfare and development. Some of them are mentioned below:-
Irish Acts on Childcare
Child Care Act, 1991
- Under this Child Care Act 1991, ‘child’ is a person under 18 years of age, excluding a person who is or has been married. This Act provides for the appointment of a guardian also in respect of care proceedings of a child. The appointment is made in the child’s best interests and when he is not a party to those proceedings. Also, when the court is satisfied that the interests of justice must have a guardian appointed.
- It is a wide range of legislation that seeks to protect and promote children’s welfare, relevant functions of the child and family agency.
- This Act covers important aspects like- (1) private foster care, (2) children in need of special care or protection,(3) protection of children in emergencies, including section 12, which governs the powers of An Garda Siochana to take a child to safety, (4) care proceedings, including different types of care orders which can be made by a court,(5) children in the care of child and family agency. (6) supervision of preschool services and residential centers.
The Child and Family Act, 2013
- The Child and Family Act, 2013 established an Agency with a state responsible for assessing compliance levels with regulations.
- The Child and Family Agency is charged with the support and development of children’s welfare and protection, effective functioning of families.
- This Act offers care and protection for children when parents cannot provide the care that a child needs. To discharge responsibilities, the Agency must maintain and develop services needed to support children and families. It provides the psychological welfare of children and families.
- Responsibility for ensuring every child in the State attends school or receives education and provides educational welfare services to support and monitor children’s attendance, participation, and retention in education.
- It ensures the best interests of the child and also guides all decisions affecting individual children.
- Consulting children and their families so that they help to shape the agency’s policies and services.
- Undertaking research related to functions and providing information and advice to the Minister regarding those functions.
- Commissioning services relating to the provision of child and family welfare services.
The Child and Family Agency’s services include a range of universal and targeted services.
- Child Protection and Welfare services
- Educational Welfare Services
- Psychological services
- Alternative care service
- Family and locally-based community supports
- Early Years services
- Domestic, sexual, and gender-based violence services
The Adoption Act, 2010
The Adoption Act, 2010, came into force on 1st November 2010. This Act consolidates all existing laws about adoption into one piece of legislation. It aims to ensure better regulation of adoption in Ireland and respect of intercountry adoption. The Adoption Act established “The Adoption Authority of Ireland” in place of the Adoption Board.
The following category of people could adopt a child who is at least six weeks old and not before that. These categories are:-
- A married couple who is living together.
- A married person alone. The spouse’s consent is needed unless the couple is living apart or separated by the court’s order.
- Mother, father, or any relative of the child.
- A widow or widower.
- A sole applicant who does not come under any of those above-mentioned categories but the child’s adoption can be approved only when the authority is satisfied.
National Quality Framework for child care
The Department of Children and Youth Affairs was established in 2011 and brought key areas of policy and provision for children and young people.
Policy issues that affect children in early childhood education and care, youth justice, child welfare, and protection of children and young people.
It has developed the National Policy Framework work for children and youth. National strategy on participation in decision making and youth strategy was developed to develop specific parts of the National Policy Framework.
It established shared outcomes for children and youth towards all government departments, agencies, statutory services, and voluntary and community sectors.
These outcomes are:-
- Be active and healthy with positive physical and mental well-being.
- Achieve their full potential in all areas of learning and development.
- Be safe and protected from harm.
- Have economic security and opportunity.
- Be connected, respected, and contributing to their world.
It provides a framework for the development and implementation of policy and services for children and young people.
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