Policy Brief: Early Childhood Ireland’s Budget 2024 submission

Policy Brief: Early Childhood Ireland’s Budget 2024 submission
Léargas and Early Childhood Ireland Erasmus+ ECEC Exchange

Early Childhood Ireland is calling for children to be at the heart of Early Years (EY) and School Age Care (SAC) in Ireland in its Budget 2024 submission, published last week. A large body of international evidence has established that high-quality Early Years and School Age Care experiences for children provide long-lasting benefits for them, their families, and their communities. Early Childhood Ireland, the leading sector organisation, is calling on the Government to build on public funding commitments by refocusing on a new ambition for our youngest citizens.

“The Irish Early Years and School Age Care system is under significant pressure, despite a committed workforce and unprecedented investment. The Government needs to ensure that Budget 2024 strengthens and enhances current levels of quality so that every child can have access to consistently high-quality education and care in settings and in childminders’ homes,” said Frances Byrne, Director of Policy at Early Childhood Ireland.

In its Budget submission, the organisation outlines five key proposals which build on existing provisions and policies but would also be transformative for the sector.

  • Publish a 5-year plan for implementing additional investment, to reach €4bn – 1% of GDP – by early 2029, thus achieving a publicly funded Early Years and School Age Care system in Ireland.
  • Building on Aistear and as part of increasing investment, embed the philosophy of the world-renowned Reggio Emilia Approach in the system to ensure that the rights of children are interlinked with educators, families, and communities.
  • Unify the existing funding programmes: National Childcare Scheme (NCS), Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) and Core Funding, to allow settings to use capacity, not children’s attendance, as a funding measurement. This would offer improved flexibility to children, with no financial consequences for providers or parents.
  • Increase the Graduate Premiums to further incentivise the recruitment and retention of graduates.
  • Implement fully the ‘Better data’ recommendations from Partnership for the Public Good, and initiate a system of national and local 2-year and 5-year planning cycles to ensure there are enough Early Years and School Age Care places in settings and in childminders’ homes for children in their own communities.

“Collectively, these measures would vindicate children’s rights as part of a world-class Early Years and School Age Care system and support all families regardless of their individual circumstances. An inclusive Early Years and School Age Care system creates a more equitable society for all, especially those living in poverty or experiencing other disadvantages. We urge the government to use Budget 2024 to take vital steps toward delivering high-quality services to all children in Ireland,” Frances Byrne added.

This Budget submission is part of Early Childhood Ireland’s ongoing advocacy work, together with its members, to achieve its vision of a sector where every young child is thriving and learning in quality Early Years and School Age Care settings. Our mission is to support and empower Early Years and School Age Care providers and educators to provide the highest quality Early Years and School Age Care services for children and their families.

To achieve high-quality Early Years and School Age Care, Early Childhood Ireland believes that an investment of €4bn within a 5-year plan for the sector is needed to raise Ireland’s current investment level from 0.3% of GDP to the UNICEF recommendation of 1% of GDP. Such an investment would bring Ireland closer to providing a publicly funded, accessible, and inclusive EY and SAC service for all children and families.

If you would like to know more about Early Childhood Ireland’s advocacy or policy proposals, please contact our policy team @ policy@earlychildhoodireland.ie .

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