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Looking Ahead to Election 2020

January 7, 2020

As we face into a new year and a new decade, Early Childhood Ireland’s advocacy team is looking ahead to the general election expected to take place this year. While a date has yet to be confirmed, we are continuing to work on a number of key issues affecting our members. Our Have Your Say members’ event last month was an important opportunity to gather input and feedback and we look forward to building on this with further regional events from later this month.
Some of the priority issues for Early Childhood Ireland for the next election are as follows –
Greater investment
As our members are aware, our sector is chronically underfunded. While there has been an increase in government investment in the past number of years, overall investment levels remain extremely low. Ireland invests the lowest amount of any European or OECD country in early years care – only around 0.2% GDP. By comparison, the Nordic countries, frequently acknowledged as leaders in this area, invest between 1.3% and 1.9% of GDP.
Low investment levels prolong the already challenging legacy of historic underinvestment in early years. Increasing investment in our sector is a key priority for Early Childhood Ireland. It is vital that any such increase be continuous, robust, and focused on providing strategic and meaningful resources and supports for early years providers and staff.
As the national membership organisation, Early Childhood Ireland will be asking all Parties and Independent candidates to commit to a ten-year programme of continuously enhanced investment, with a view to moving Ireland towards the UNICEF-recommended international benchmark of 1% GDP. This is essential if we are to ensure that our sector is properly resourced to deliver services that are sustainable for providers, affordable for families, and most importantly, guarantee a universal quality of care for children.
A single early years agency
Our pre-Budget 2020 submission called for the establishment of a single, dedicated early years agency. As Early Childhood Ireland’s  members are only too aware, responsibility for oversight, administration, and inspections in our sector is divided between multiple agencies and Departments. This has resulted in a complex status quo that is burdensome for providers, who must deal with a number of agencies in relation to funding and inspections, and often confusing for parents, who may find it difficult to obtain reliable, up-to-date, and accessible information on the quality of a service.
We documented the impact of this fragmentation and the way in which the existing regimen fails to capture the true quality of a service in a video series with our members in October.
We will be calling on the next Government to prioritise the establishment of a single, dedicated agency for our sector. This agency would comprise:
  • Sole responsibility for a streamlined inspection regime;
  • Management of all aspects of funding, quality and curriculum, administration, and capital investment;
  • An expert-led rapid intervention team;
  • The provision of real-time reports for parents and families.
Building on the success of our ‘Have Your Say’ event with members in December, Early Childhood Ireland will hold regional members’ events later this month in a number of counties. These meetings will allow us to gather further input from members on key election goals for our sector and to work with our members to support local action.
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