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Budget 2020: Early Years and School-Age Childcare Agency

August 20, 2019

What is Early Childhood Ireland asking for in Budget 2020?

In the coming weeks, the Policy and Advocacy team will begin rolling out our Budget 2020 document. We will be asking government to prioritise the establishment of a dedicated statutory Early Years and School-Age Childcare Agency. It is the view of Early Childhood Ireland that the current arrangements for oversight and quality assurance in the sector are no longer fully fit-for-purpose; neither guaranteeing the best outcomes for children nor sufficient support for providers. While the vast majority of services are providing high-quality care in a nurturing environment, the current fragmented inspection and oversight system allows problems to slip through the cracks. We want this to change.

 

What will the new agency do differently?

The Early Years and School-Age Childcare Agency would draw together all the different strands currently responsible for oversight and planning in the early years and school-age sector under one roof. It would have sole responsibility for inspections and quality assurance for early years settings, school aged childcare settings and those providing home based care.

Instead of the current system of two separate thematic inspections, there would be a single ‘whole-setting’ inspection to examine all aspects of care and education alongside financial compliance. The work currently being done by Better Start and the County Childcare Committees would be more effectively integrated into the quality assurance infrastructure and a new single-inspection framework would be developed to replace those of Tusla and the Early Years Inspectorate.

The agency would align and co-ordinate all functions relating to quality and curriculum, planning, administration, funding and capital investment in the early years sector. It would also act as a ‘one-stop shop’ for all information for parents and providers; providing real-time updated inspection reports, information on the National Childcare Scheme, ECCE and so on.

A rapid intervention team would also form part of the agency’s work and allow for immediate remedial action to be taken. This team would address very serious concerns – such as those uncovered by RTÉ – as soon as they are raised.

This team would comprise quality, regulatory, and financial experts, as required, who would work with the setting to ensure that issues are addressed and rectified. If the setting refuses to engage, or immediate and critical child safety risks are identified, the agency would have the power to issue an immediate closure order.

 

What are the plans for the rollout of the budget document?

In advance of the Budget, the Policy and Advocacy team will be meeting with leaders from all political parties in the coming months to seek political support for our plans. We will also be hosting a “Meet the Members” event in Dublin on 3 October, at which TDs and Senators will have an opportunity to meet with providers from their local areas to discuss our Budget ask and other issues and concerns.

We will keep you updated on all the details of this work as we get closer to the Budget announcement on 8 October.

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