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Early Childhood Ireland Welcomes the First 5 Strategy

ECI Welcomes the First 5 Strategy

November 21, 2018

It’s here at last! Some of Early Childhood Ireland’s members have been waiting a decade for the publication of Ireland’s first ever early years strategy, First 5, which was finally published to much fanfare yesterday.

As the leading early years stakeholder, Early Childhood Ireland and our members had been officially and unofficially consulted by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. We are pleased to see concerns we raised and some ideas we proposed, have been addressed and included. There is a small brochure about the strategy which gives a good flavour of its content. We were proud and delighted to see Kelda Barnes from our member the Darndale/Belcamp Integrated Childcare Centre in the official launch video.

Early Childhood Ireland issued our initial response which you can read here. We are analysing the strategy in full over the next few days and weeks, and it will be a major focus of our ongoing policy, advocacy and practice work on behalf of members, for the foreseeable future. Our 2019 conference will also provide an opportunity to explore implications and opportunities for providers all over Ireland.

Early Childhood Ireland welcomes that First 5 places babies and children at its centre, recognising that early childhood is a unique phase of life, in which children have unique rights. This is a sentiment that we as an organisation and you our members have been championing for many years. Likewise, we are delighted that the Strategy recognises the importance of play in children’s learning.

First 5 acknowledges the historical underinvestment in early years care and education in Ireland and proposes to establish a monitoring mechanism to track future spending in the sector. This is a very welcome development as addressing the issues facing the early years sector will require significant investment, embedded in a whole of government approach.

Early Childhood Ireland will now be focussing our attention on the three-year implementation plan which the Government has committed to produce by May 2019. This plan must be detailed and include well-planned, transparent timelines of the introduction of initiatives such as the increased parental leave and capital spending in the sector, as well the proposed Workforce Initiative.

The new sector funding model proposed in the Strategy, must be given careful consideration, in terms of its impact on our sector and it must follow a realistic time and investment schedule. The end-date of its introduction must be mapped out well in advance as our sector needs to be given sufficient time to prepare for the changes ahead. Early Childhood Ireland will not support a situation where providers are left to shoulder the burden of implementing poorly planned government initiatives.

We are also pleased to see such a broad range of areas beyond the early years sector, included in First 5, from fighting child poverty to child and family mental health initiatives.

Of note is that the Department of Children and Youth Affairs uses the term Early Learning and Care (ELC) throughout First 5 to describe our sector. Early Childhood Ireland would love to hear your feedback about this new wording. Is it good? Bad? Useful? Annoying? What do you think? We would of course also like to hear any questions or concerns you may have about the strategy. Please drop a note to policy@earlychildhoodireland.ie.

We will continue to keep members updated on any new developments.

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