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Budget Day 2017

October 11, 2016

After months of preparation, including our Pre-Budget Submission, the launch of our report on the Real Cost of Providing Childcare, and a series of meetings with TDs, Senators and officials from across the political spectrum, Budget Day 2017 has finally arrived! The childcare package secured by the Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone TD, will be announced in the Dáil today from 1pm and you can follow it live on both RTE radio and television.

As the representative body for the early education and care sector in Ireland, we lobbied hard for significant and focused investment that will recognise and address the following three challenges as interrelated and interdependent to a successful model of childcare for the future:

  1. The best quality care and education provision for children in the most formative years of their development;
  2. Viability and sustainability for both early childhood services and their staff;
  3. Access and affordability for parents to childcare facilities and services.

We urged the Government to make the following investment and take the following actions in Budget 2017 and we will issue a special email tomorrow with a full analysis of the measures announced.

ECI sought additional investment of €115 million spread across the three areas of challenge, quality, sustainability and affordability:

  1. €61 million to increase the level of capitation paid to services operating the ECCE (free preschool) programme to €75 per week per child at the standard capitation rate and €85 per week per child at the higher rate, on the basis of a 41 week programme.
  2. €31 million to extend the ECCE programme contract by three weeks to 41 weeks to support the payment of non-contact time and holiday time for service providers and staff.
  3. €3 million to create a new permanent and comprehensive system for supporting learners to access further education and training in early childhood education that builds on the existing ‘Learner Fund’ model, caters for all levels and will lead to the provision of a minimum of 3 continuous professional development (CPD) days per year for early years educators.
  4. €20 million to introduce a childcare subsidy to support parents with the full year childcare costs for under 3’s in 2017, where the State pays the provider or registered childminder directly to subsidise the real cost of childcare.

Additional recommendations:

  • ECI urges the Minister for Social Protection to act on the Programme for Partnership Government commitment to introduce an improved PRSI scheme and provide a supportive tax regime for the self-employed.
  • ECI calls on the Minister for Social Protection to prioritise parental leave in his budget considerations, recommending the introduction of two weeks paid parental leave in 2017. This would be a significant step towards the medium-term goal of 12 months paid parental leave in the child’s critical first year, which can be shared by parents and follow maternity and paternity leave entitlements. The cost of this measure in 2017 is an estimated €20.5 million.
  • ECI urges the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to tackle issues that are particular to community childcare providers, in conjunction with her colleagues the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government and the Minister for Social Protection. These include a focus on supporting good governance, providing additional funds to support families encountering difficulties, dealing with bad debts and tackling staffing needs relating to the move away from the use of Community Employment. 
  • ECI calls on the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to play his part in a whole-of-government approach to ensuring the sustainability of the early care and education sector by abolishing commercial rates for all early care and education settings.
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