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Pobal Early Years Sector Profile 2018/19 Launched

Pobal Early Years Sector Profile 2018/19 Launched

December 17, 2019

On Monday 16 December, the Pobal Early Years Sector Profile 2018/19 was launched by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr. Katherine Zappone TD. This is the seventeenth edition of the annual profile, which captures key figures and data across the early years sector.
 
For Early Childhood Ireland, the report is an invaluable resource that helps to illustrate the realities and challenges affecting our members.
 
This year’s Sector Profile is based on responses from 3,821 early years providers around Ireland, corresponding to 85% of the sector.
 
Key Figures
4,598 services are contracted to deliver one of the three DCYA-funded early years programmes, an increase of 1% on last year. 108,204 children are enrolled in ECCE, which is provided by 4,227 services nationwide.
 
74% of services are privately owned while 26% operate on a not-for-profit basis. Two-thirds are located in urban areas.
 
Numbers Enrolled and Accessibility
An estimated 206,301 children are enrolled in early years and school-age services nationwide. Children aged between 3 and 5 account for 55% of all enrolments. A majority of children (69%) attend services in an urban area, with just under 70% attending a private setting.
 
The report shows a significant increase in demand. There is a 41% increase in the number of children on waiting lists. Four times more children are on waiting lists for a full day care place than there are available places. Available places for babies aged between birth and 12 months has declined by 5% year-on-year. Overall, available places for this age cohort has declined by 64% since 2016/17.
 
2,388 services were supported under the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) in respect of 5,513 children.
 
Fees
For the third year in a row, average fees have risen across all types of provision. The average national fees are as follows –
 
  • €184.36 for full day care (+€6.44 or 3.6% YOY);
  • €108.98 for part-time care (+€8.16 or 8%);
  • €73.30 for sessional care (+€4.35 or 6%).
 
As in previous years, fees are highest in urban and affluent areas and for private settings.
 
Staffing and Wages
The Profile estimates that there are 30,775 total staff working in the sector. 87% of staff work directly with children, and 98% of these are female.
 
The average hourly wage in the sector in 2018/19 was €12.55. Wages vary across county and employment title, with six in ten staff earning less than the living wage of €12.30 per hour.
 
The turnover rate in the sector is 23%, down 2% on 2017/18. However, 53% of services reported difficulties in recruiting staff over the previous twelve months. Four in ten services reported having at least one staff member leave in the last year.
 
Policy Implications
The figures in yesterday’s report show that the legacy of historic underinvestment in early years continues to be keenly felt. Providers are struggling to ensure the sustainability of their services despite growing demand for places. Recruitment and retention continue to pose a major challenge, with over half of providers finding it difficult to recruit staff. This tallies with the results of Early Childhood Ireland’s most recent staffing survey, which found that 65% of respondents were struggling to recruit and retain staff and 91% feared it would impact their viability.
 
These figures are all the more disheartening in light of the fact more children than ever are enrolled in early years and school-age services. Numbers of children enrolled increased by 2% this year, reflecting not just a growing awareness of the importance of children’s earliest years but the need for robustly funded, accessible services for families.
 
Investment remains at the core of the issues affecting our members. Irish investment in early years is five times less than the UNICEF-recommended international benchmark of 1% GDP. There is an urgent need for political vision and leadership for our sector and recognition of the hardworking professionals at the coalface of early years provision.
 
Ahead of an expected general election next year, Early Childhood Ireland will be calling on all Parties and Independent candidates to commit to a ten-year programme of increased investment. This is essential in order to ensure providers are fully funded and resourced to retain highly-trained staff and to deliver quality, affordable, and sustainable services for families.
 
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