Minimum Standards2017-02-09T10:41:03+00:00
Minimum Standards

Version 3 – Implementation Guidance for Sessional and Full Day Care (October, 2016) is now live.

Minimum Standards for Childminding and Day Care for Children Under Age 12 (DHSSPS, 2012).

The ‘Minimum Standards’ were launched in October 2012 as a means of providing a consistent level of quality for all childminding and daycare services across Northern Ireland.  The Minimum Standards are designed to ensure a consistent regional approach to registration and inspection.

The Minimum Standards document can be accessed by clicking here

In July 2013 following a review period – an Implementation Guidance document was developed to support the interpretation and practical application of the Minimum Standards.

Version 3 the latest Implementation Guidance can be accessed by clicking here

Health and Social Care (HSC) Trusts are responsible for registering and inspecting childcare services against the requirements laid down in the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995. There are three categories of childcare setting that are required to register with HSC Trusts – childminders, full day care and sessional day care:

  • Full day care is care for children aged 0-12 years for a continuous period of four hours or more in any day in premises which are not domestic. The children do not necessarily have to attend for more than four hours, and the setting may provide provision for part day care for children aged 0-12 years, but if the facility is open for longer than this, it is defined as a full day care setting.
  • Sessional day care is defined as day care for children which covers less than a continuous period of four hours in any day and covers crèches, preschool sessional care, out of school clubs (including breakfast clubs) and the Sure Start Developmental Programme for 2-3 year olds. Wraparound care is also covered by the standards on sessional care.

Out of school clubs (School Age Childcare settings) are generally covered under the category “Sessional Care”. However, as children in these clubs are, by definition, older, there may be some standards that apply to them but not, for example, to crèches or pre-schools. Where this is the case, the Minimum Standards have a separate heading in the blue “Sessional Care” box and the standards below that heading only apply to out of school clubs.

Minimum Standards are the minimum level of service that has to be provided in order to be registered with a HSC Trust and meet the inspection standards. Whilst there may be no specific law underpinning some of the standards, it is important to understand that the Department has the legal right to set standards for these services in order for a provider to be registered with their HSC Trust.

There are 16 Minimum Standards which will be inspected on in each setting and these are grouped under 4 headings (colour coded):

Quality of Care

Quality of Staffing, Management and Leadership

Quality of the Physical Environment

Quality of Monitoring and Evaluation

A fifth section outlines the Policies and Procedures required in settings.


The standards expand on the content of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 and Volume Two of the guidance and regulations associated with the Order.

The Children Order can be found at: