Early Childhood Ireland welcomes new childcare scheme but cautions that overall package will not address the sector’s sustainability crisis.
Commenting this evening as more details were released, Teresa Heeney CEO of Early Childhood Ireland said:
“The Budget 2017 childcare package today has some positive aspects but the investment is simply not enough to solve the childcare crisis. On the positive side, we welcome the introduction of the Single Affordable Childcare scheme, both the targeted and the universal aspects, and the fact that for the first time the essential non-contact time involved in delivering the ECCE (free preschool) scheme will be acknowledged.
“Those delivering the scheme will be paid seven ECCE administration days starting in January 2017. This is critical time that has up to now been taken for granted and unpaid and while seven days is not enough to cover the actual time involved in administering this ECCE scheme (ECI had proposed 3 weeks payment for this) it is a start and something we can build on.
“Of significant disappointment to Early Childhood Ireland is the fact that the capitation levels for the free preschool scheme have still not increased, therefore significantly impacting on the ability of the childcare sector to attract and retain the best quality staff. We had sought a €10 increase in the capitation rates which have a direct impact on pay rates for childcare professionals.
“We already know from our members that there is a real crisis in staff recruitment and retention, due to the low wage levels in this sector. Therefore, we are concerned that this budget will increase expectations of parents while at the same time it will put pressure on the sector which cannot be delivered due to the inability to attract staff. Remember staff in this sector earn an average of €10.26 per hour and many have to go on the dole for the Summer months. This is simply not sustainable.
“When it comes to childcare – affordability for parents, quality for children and sustainability for childcare operators are all interlinked. Unfortunately, this budget does very little to address the sustainability of childcare services, aside from a payment of seven ECCE administration days. What we have heard so far from Budget 2017 is that this government is just beginning to address affordability for parents but is failing to tackle the issues of low salaries in this sector, a key issue for quality and sustainability.
“Quality experiences for children are determined by the quality of the early years educators delivering such schemes, without whom we have no sector to deliver such schemes.
“Unfortunately, we were expecting radical change, fueled by radical investment in childcare in this budget but we haven’t got that today. While we welcome the direction and the nature of the Single Affordable Childcare Scheme announced in today’s budget, what must be put into context is that only €35.5 million of the €121 million investment announced is ‘new money’ with the remaining €85 million required to keep the existing childcare programmes going.”
Further information: Teresa Heeney 087 7671481 or Dónall Geoghegan 087 2225691 or Carmel Doyle 087 2473537
Editor’s note: Early Childhood Ireland represents over 3,500 childcare members who support over 100,000 children and their families through preschool, afterschool and full daycare provision nationwide. Its work includes quality enhancement, publications, advocacy, training, business support and information for a sector that employs 25,000 people today.
Teresa Heeney CEO and Dónall Geoghegan Director of Policy and Communications in Early Childhood Ireland are contactable for interview.