Government statement of intent recognises need for further investment year on year.
Early Childhood Ireland, the leading organisation in the early years sector, has today (12.10.21) welcomed the announcement of the childcare package as part of Budget 2022. There is still much work to be done to reform the sector but, after years of uncertainty, parents and providers alike will welcome measures to address low pay and sector sustainability as well as affordability for families, the organisation said.
Early Childhood Ireland supports 3,900 childcare members nationwide, who – in turn – support more than 120,000 children and their families. The organisation has been calling on the Government to make Budget 2022 ‘The Childcare Budget’ by meeting the commitment in the national early years strategy, First 5, to double investment in childcare by 2028.
Frances Byrne, Director of Policy at Early Childhood Ireland, says the measures announced today represent some long-overdue progress towards increasing Ireland’s investment in childcare to at least 1% of GDP. She said these measures have the potential to deliver a roadmap which could transform the sector and provide the flexibility that families need as work places move to hybrid working following the pandemic.
“After years of insecurity, Budget 2022 delivers some peace of mind for childcare providers, their staff and the families they serve,” said Ms. Byrne. “This increased investment recognises how essential our sector is to wider society and the economy. Now, the Government must seize this opportunity to properly reform the sector and move us closer to the much-lauded Scandinavian childcare model.
“There is still much work to be done to bring Ireland’s childcare system in line with other EU Member States. However, this increased funding will move us in the right direction. It will enable childcare providers to plan for the long term; staff to enjoy greater job security; and offer parents some reassurance about accessing places for their young children.
Immediate support for childcare services
Early Childhood Ireland also welcomed the continuation of the bespoke Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme, introduced by the Government in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 crisis, which currently supports a significant proportion of salaries in childcare settings.
Ms. Byrne said: “We see the announcements by Government today as a renewed commitment to reforming the childcare sector by establishing a multi-annual funding model that values early years and after-school care as much as primary and secondary education. For our youngest citizens, staff, providers and parents, this is welcome.”