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Launch of Footsteps for the Future

July 15, 2015

€109 million increased investment in Early Childhood Education required in 2016 according to new report Footsteps for the Future” written by Dr Stephen Kinsella for Early Childhood Ireland, launched July 15th in Buswells Hotel.

 

Increased ECCE (free preschool scheme) capitation payment and promotion of quality and sustainability; out of school supports crucial to alleviate the cost of after school care for families; a rolling quality programme; inclusion and support grants for children with additional needs and a gradual increase in the availability of parental leave over a 6 year period to one year – are all policy recommendations in “Footsteps for the Future – Increasing investment in Early Childhood Education”, written by Dr Stephen Kinsella, Senior Lecturer in Economics at the University of Limerick, for Early Childhood Ireland.

 

According to the new report, which is available here, the policy recommendations require an additional spend of €109 million in 2016; another €80 million in 2017; €84 million in 2018; €83 million in 2019; €87 million in 2020 and €67 million in 2021.  The report states that, “Considering demographic projections from 2016 to 2021, without any changes to current policy, the spend of roughly €250 million would increase by an average of €18 million per annum to account for increased numbers of children.  It warns that tax credits are not the answer to Ireland’s childcare crisis, stating that, “We must be emphatic.  Tax credits will not support the financial sustainability of early childhood settings, and therefore will have no impact on reducing the direct cost of childcare for parents.  They are extremely expensive and will not drive quality throughout the system.”

 

Key recommendations in “Footsteps for the Future” report include:

 

  • Moving, gradually, towards 1 year of paid parental leave, in 1 month movements, over a 6 year period at a cost of €41 million per annum.  According to the report, “This in line with international best practice regarding what is good for babies in their first year.  It segments the market and reduces cost of delivery to service providers.  It improves the sustainability of service providers without compromising levels of service for children older than 1 year, increasing capacity for older children without reducing adult-child ratios below what is considered best practice internationally  The policy increases the disposable income of new parents, increases household work intensity and contributes to female labour market participation.”

 

  • A public subsidy system of out of school care, funded similarly to the ECCE Scheme, at a cost of €19 million in 2016.  This would run along the same lines as New Zealand’s OSCAR model, where the household and the state share payment of approved operators.

 

  • Increased capitation levels to €75 and €85 per child per week at a cost of €27 million in 2016.  This much needed policy change recognizes that a good quality childcare place costs €75 and above to deliver.  It improves sustainability of service providers, drives quality improvements throughout the system and retains professionalism in the sector.  The report also highlights that, “Of the nearly 25,000 childcare workers, over 3,370, almost 14% of the total workforce, had to sign on the live register in the summer of 2014, at a cost of €7.2 million to the exchequer.”

 

  • A rights-based, social model with anticipatory funding to be introduced for children with additional needs and children from disadvantaged areas.  This would involve an allocation of resources that is front loaded to settings, based on a framework of prevalence and demographics and the estimated cost is €16 million per annum in 2016 and an additional €16 million per annum right up until 2021.

 

  • A rolling quality programme, as the lynchpin of the system that requires adequate oversight, testing and regulation.  Specifically, it is recommended that the Tusla Pre-School Inspectorate should be reconstituted and merged with a new DES-led early years inspectorate to form a single care-and-education inspectorate for all early years settings, regardless of whether they take up ECCE schemes or not.  According to the report, €6 million per annum for 6 years until 2021 should be sufficient to put a rigorous quality programme in place.

 

The report also warns that “were a second preschool year to be introduced, or if subsidized childcare places were made available, the system cannot supply enough places as currently constituted, especially in the Dublin area.  There should be no new services without clear evidence of need and quality.  This information is easily accessible and is currently used by the Department of Education and Skills for planning purposes.”

 

Download the Footsteps for the Future Report.

 

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