What childcare involves?

Step 3: Understand What Childcare Involves?


1. Quality Childcare 

2. Equality and Diversity

3. International Obligations and Responsibility

4. Significant Legislation and Development in Early Childhood Care and Education

5. National Childcare Infrastructure

6. Food Hygiene Regulations

7. Planning Guidelines for Childcare Facilities


1. Quality Childcare


The importance of high quality practices in childcare services on children’s development and learning  is well established. It is equally important to reflect on the fact that poor quality provision may be detrimental to children and even put them at risk. Quality is achieved in childcare through the provision of a good physical infrastructure; imaginative materials which meet the different needs of the children in the facility; a warm and caring team of practitioners; a good relationship between parents and the childcare team; sound management policies and practices; awareness of equality and diversity; and a responsiveness to the individual needs of each child. Equally important are appropriate ratios of staff to children, the presence of qualified staff and the contentedness of staff  with their working environment and structures’


Click here for Aistear the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework

Click here for Síolta, the National Quality Framework for Early Years Education

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2. Equality and Diversity

Equality and diversity are issues that affect all of us throughout our work and life experiences. In a diverse society all children should have equal opportunities for learning and enjoyment in the context of childcare. The principle of inclusion involves access to childcare services in addition to respect and support for all children and their families, including those from marginalized groups. However, it is important to emphasize that equality and diversity are also the concerns of the majority and are not just issues that affect minority groups.

The term ‘equality’ refers to: The importance of recognizing different individual needs and of ensuring equity in terms of access, participation and benefits for all children and their families. It is therefore not about treating  people the same.

The term ‘diversity’ refers to: The Diverse nature of Irish society for example in terms of social class, gender, returned Irish emigrants, family status, minority groups and the majority group.


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3. International Obligation and Responsibility 

The UN Convention of the Rights of the Child sets out the protected rights of children and is binding international law. Ireland ratified the Convention in 1992, which imposes an obligation to implement the provisions therein. Compliance in relation to childcare provision is contained in article 29 which states:

 Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to:

(a) The development of the child's personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential;

(b) The development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations;

(c) The development of respect for the child's parents, his or her own cultural Identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own;

(d) The preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin;

(e) The development of respect for the natural environment.

Article 30 specifically requires us to acknowledge and ensure the rights of ethnic, linguistic, religious minority groups, indigenous and otherwise.

The Convention promotes ideas that need to be made part of all childcare policies and to be implemented in childcare practice, requiring a strong commitment to the principle of non-discrimination.

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4. Significant Legislation and Developments in Early Childhood Care and Education 

Childcare Act, 1991

This is a very significant development in legislation as it is the main legislation governing the care and protection of children which includes

  • Early Years Services regulations*
  • Child protection **
  • Family support

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*Early Years Services Regulations 

Because providing quality childcare is such a very important service to society, the state has established regulations that all childcare providers must adhere to.

For example, Part VII of the Childcare Act deals with the issue of SUPERVISION AND INSPECTION of early years services by the early years services inspections officer from Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. Tusla, the Child and Family Agency is the body responsible for enforcing the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016. These regulations aim to ensure that high standards of safety and health are reached in childcare services and that the welfare and development of children is promoted.

Anyone providing an early yearsl service must comply with these regulations, and a copy of Part VII of the Childcare Act 1991 and the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016 must be held on the premises.

The first regulation to be aware of is that the proprietor of a childcare service or those intending to set up a service must notify their local preschool inspections officer in the Tusla, Child and Family Agency 28 days before starting the service.

Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016 are available to download here.
Otherwise, the precise regulations vary depending on the type of childcare service you are providing, but some common to all types include:

  • You must have appropriate planning permission
  • You must have adequate insurance cover
  • You must ensure adequate fire safety precautions are in place
  • You must have provisions in place for medical and other emergencies
  • You and your staff should be experienced, qualified and competent
  • You must maintain the necessary register and records

The Pre-schools Inspections Officer inspect the premises under the following headings: 


  • Management and Recruitment
    • Garda Vetting
    • References
    • Qualifcations/Training
  • Staffing
  • Childminders
  • Information Records
    • Policies and Procedures
    • Attendance recirds
    • Staff Rosters
    • Medication Administration
    • Accidents/incidents

Health, Welfare and Development of the Child

  • Basic needs of children
  • Supporting relationshhips around children
  • environemnt supports development
  • programme of activity supports development
  • Behvaiour management
  • Facilities for rest and play
  • Safe sleep checks
  • Outdoor play


  • Safeguarding health, safety and welfae of the child
  • General health and safety measures
  • Outdoor safety
  • First aid
  • Fire Safety
  • Insurance
  • Outings


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**Children First Bill

The Children First Bill, 2014, which will put elements of the Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children (2011) on a statutory footing was published by the Houses of the Oireachtas on 14 April 2014 (Children First Bill 2014). The introduction of this legislation has been a key Programme for Government commitment, and will form part of a suite of child protection legislation which already includes the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act, 2012 and the Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012. The Bill has passed all stages in the Dáil and is currently passing through the Seanad. Enactment is expected by year end. CF Bill Updated

The Bill provides for a number of key child protection measures, as follows:

  • A requirement on organisations providing services to children to keep children safe and to produce a Child Safeguarding Statement;
  • A requirement on defined categories of persons (mandated persons) to report child protection concerns over a defined threshold to the Child and Family Agency (the Agency);
  • A requirement on mandated persons to assist the Agency in the assessment of a child protection risk, if so requested to do so by the Agency;
  • Putting the Children First Interdepartmental Group on a statutory footing.

For further information regarding this legislation, go to www.dcya.gov.ie or contact Kildare County Childcare Committee.

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Children First National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children 

Children First is the national guidance on child welfare and protection. It states what organisations need to do to keep children safe, and what different bodies, and the general public, should do if they are concerned about a child’s safety and welfare. The Guidance sets out specific protocols for Tusla, Child and Family Agency social workers, Gardaí and other front line staff in dealing with suspected abuse and neglect of children.

Children First National Guidance 2011 
Tús Áite do Leanaí 2011
Children First - Frequently Asked Questions 2011

If you have a child welfare or protection concern which you want to discuss or report, please telephone you local Tusla, Child and Family Agency Child and Family Services Duty Social Worker. Click here to view the list of Tusla, Child and Family Agency Child and Family Services duty social work phone lines by county.

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Children First Guidance 

The Guidance deals with the recognition, reporting and management of child safety concerns. It sets out a number of key messages relating to the duty to protect children. Among these are:

  • that the safety and welfare of children is everyone’s responsibility;
  • that children will have safer lives, where everyone is attentive to their wellbeing; and
  • that people who work with children across a range of areas understand their personal responsibility  or safe practice in their organisation, the reporting of concerns and co-operation with statutory bodies.                                                                

For more information on specific aspects of the Guidance click here: Children First Guidance

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Our Duty to Care

Our Duty to Care was published by the Department of Health and Children in October 2002.  It is aimed at staff and volunteers of community and voluntary organisations of any size or type that provide services for children. It is a practical guide offering guidance on the promotion of child welfare and the development of safe practices in work with children. It also gives information on how to recognise signs of child abuse and the steps to take within organisations if abuse is suspected, witnessed or disclosed.

Our Duty to Care
Our Duty to Care (Factsheets) 
Ár nDualgas Cúraim
Ár nDualgas Cúraim (Irish Factsheets)

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Children First - Key Messages 

DCYA Child Protection Policy and Code of Behaviour for Working with Children and Young People

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs is fully committed to safeguarding the well-being of all the children and young people with whom it works. The DCYA is committed to promoting the rights of the child, including the participation of children and young people in matters that affect them.

As the body with responsibility for driving and monitoring the implementation of the National Children's Strategy, the DCYA is committed to promoting and facilitating the full participation of children and young people in its work. The DCYA aims to create a safe and healthy environment for the young people with whom it works and is committed at all times to ensuring their safety and welfare.

A set of child protection guidelines is operated by the DCYA based on Children First – National Guidance and Our Duty to Care – The Principles of Good Practice for the Protection of Children and Young People. In accordance with these documents, it is good practice for all organisations that have contact with children and young people to introduce a child protection policy. This policy also helps to provide safeguards and support for staff when they are working with children and young people.   DCYA Child Protection Policy

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5. National Childcare Infrastructure

This was established in 1999 with the focus of having an overview on childcare provision in the Country. Three organisations were established

  • Interdepartmental Committee on Childcare
  • National Coordinating Childcare Committee
  • County and City Childcare Committees

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6. Food Hygiene Regulations

All childcare services that prepare and serve food must comply with legal requirements for food safety and food hygiene. Childcare Services should contact their local Tusla, Child and Family Agency Environmental Health Department for information and advice.

For information on all aspects of food hygiene and food safety (e.g. Food Safety Training, Allergens in Food), visit the Food Safety Authority of Ireland website www.fsai.ie

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7. Planning Guidelines for Childcare Facilities

The Department of the Environment and Local Government published planning guidelines for childcare facilities in 2001. View content here.

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Copyright 2021 by Kildare County Childcare Committee