The latest news and information

The Big Picture - Dáil Update: Parlimentary Questions

Government must seize opportunities presented by Covid-19 crisis to build more coherent childcare sector

September 1, 2020

In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, the government has a unique opportunity to build a more coherent and fit-for-purpose system for Early Years and School Age childcare. In Early Childhood Ireland, we believe that the challenges presented by COVID-19 could be the driving force needed to bring Ireland closer to the Scandinavian childcare model.

Over 1,600 providers have already reopened in line with government guidelines and a further 3,000 creches and after-school childcare settings are about to reopen for the 2020/2021 school year. As the new academic year starts and the 2021 Budget is being developed, the government has an opportunity to take some practical steps to bring our childcare system closer to the internationally lauded Scandinavian model. Central to that strategy is an increased and sustained investment in childcare. Early Childhood Ireland is calling for increased sectoral investment in both the 2021 Budget and the new National Development Plan. We also recommend that, along with more investment, the actions which are envisaged in First 5 to develop a new funding model are prioritised without delay.

If public funding is not increased, Irish parents will continue to pay high fees, staff will remain low paid and providers will be left to battle the obstacles of an unsustainable system which could, and should, be addressed by the Department once and for all.  Ireland is at the bottom of the EU investment league and it is now time for the government to present a timeline for year-on-year funding, which will change this, so that children and their families can have the same quality experiences that exist in other countries.

It is important to acknowledge that progress has been made. Ahead of the re-opening of early-years childcare settings in late June, Early Childhood Ireland had called on the government to monitor capacity within the childcare sector on a week-to-week basis. As a result, a weekly monitoring system is now in place. We very much welcome the fact that the Department of Children and Youth Affairs is now monitoring capacity and vacancies in all childcare settings each week. We urge the Department to use the real-time data being captured to ensure that the capacity and sustainability of the sector does not decrease during this crucial period.

It is also vital that staffing levels are measured on a weekly basis.  There is widespread concern about staff who may need to isolate while undergoing COVID-19 testing and awaiting results, leaving them unavailable to attend work.  This has huge knock-on effects on the capacity of our members to operate within the proper adult-child ratios.  In time, special measures may be needed to address any widespread reductions in staffing levels.

Share share share share
Tags: , , , , ,
Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine