After decades of uncertainty, young children deserve more than the shorttermist approach of this Government. To break the cycle of uncertainty and usher in a period of long-overdue sustainability in our early years sector, we are calling on Government to make Budget 2022 ‘The Childcare Budget’ by meeting their commitment in the national early years strategy, First 5, to double investment in childcare by 2028 and by publishing a coherent 5 year plan to achieve this.
The delayed announcement on the future of the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme, originally expected before the end of August, and which has only been extended by one month, is just the latest example of a shorttermism that is leaving employers and families with desperate uncertainty for the medium to long-term future.
The bespoke Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme, introduced by the Government in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 crisis, currently supports over 80% of salaries in childcare settings. We welcomed the introduction of specific supports for childcare providers at the outset of the COVID-19 crisis not only as a lifeline for employers and staff but also as a long-overdue recognition by Government that our sector is essential yet also, chronically under-funded.
The bespoke Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme continues to keep our sector afloat, even as the rest of society is showing signs of recovery. Childcare providers have been living with uncertainty and insecurity for too long, as have the sector’s 30,000 staff and the families they serve. Even now, the Government announce extensions to the scheme at such short notice that employers cannot be certain of how they can pay their staff the following month.
The Government has committed to establishing a multi-annual funding and reform plan for the childcare sector, which values early years and after-school care as much as primary and secondary education. We must see the roadmap for this plan published by the Government as part of Budget 2022 next week because at present were are in a very stark scenario where expecting parents are putting as-yet-unnamed children on waiting lists while crèche operators can’t be certain whether they will still be in a position to offer a place by the time that child is born.
Ireland is a proud member of the EU, and Irish children deserve the same quality and consistency of care and education as is available in the other Member States. Instead, we languish shamelessly at the bottom of the international investment league. The government has a 5-year window to change this. Budget 2022 must provide the first steps to address historical under-investment in this essential public service.
Early Childhood Ireland supports 4000 childcare members nationwide, who – in turn – support more than 120,000 children and their families. Our full Budget 2022 Submission can be viewed here: https://bit.ly/ECIBudget2022. If you have any questions or would like to engage with us, please contact our policy team