Early Childhood Ireland has raised funding concerns with TDs as many members reopen childcare settings across Ireland for the new term. Members are also reporting additional staffing issues as employees seek out better pay and working conditions in other sectors. Providers of essential early learning and care for babies and young children should not be facing a future of uncertainty.
In our Budget 2022 Submission, Early Childhood Ireland is calling on the Government to meet their commitment in the national early years strategy, First 5, to double investment in childcare by 2028 and to publish the plan to achieve this as part of Budget 2022.
In a series of releases to national and regional media, we have highlighted that the insecurity of childcare funding has been recognised by this and previous governments. Immediate action to reform and invest in this essential sector is long overdue and yet, our members and the families they support are beginning another new term with uncertainty hanging over them. We are calling on the Government to ease these concerns by taking real action in Budget 2022 to honour the commitment to double investment in childcare by 2028. UNICEF recently stated that rich countries should invest at least 1% of GDP in the early years. Ireland currently spends just 0.1%. According to the OECD, the least amount in early years of any developed country as a percentage of GDP. Young children and their families deserve better.
Early Childhood Ireland members from 17 counties are in contact with their local TDs to raise concerns about staffing issues and wider sector sustainability.
While childcare settings continue to face the challenges caused by historic under-funding, the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted early years and school-age care as an essential public good and exposed just how fragile our sector is. The government has recognised this through specific supports such as a bespoke Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme – a scheme which continues to support 80 per cent of salaries in childcare settings, more than in any other sector. As the leading sector organisation, Early Childhood Ireland is letting policymakers know that the security offered by this Scheme is holding providers’ heads above water at the moment, but, long-term, sustainable solutions are needed. Otherwise, parents will continue to face waiting lists for their babies, alongside high fees. Budget 2022 must provide us with the roadmap to that solution.