2022 has been a long and busy year for the Early Years and School Age Care sector. In the second of a two-part End of Year Review, we will look at the major policy developments between June and the end of the year. (To read part one click here).
The Childminder Development Grant was launched at the beginning of June. This grant provides up to €1,000 to help childminders who provide a childminding service in their own homes. It aims to support the improvement of quality and safety. Ireland’s EU Child Guarantee National Action Plan was also published in June. The EU Child Guarantee was created in 2019 by the European Commission with a view of guaranteeing that every child in Europe at risk of poverty or social inclusion has access to their most basic rights including healthcare and education. The publication of the plan is the first step toward implementing the guarantee.
June also saw the publication of the funding agreements for Core Funding. The agreement sets out the details of how Core Funding will work in its first year. It also included the Minister’s commitment to funding and the requirements of partner services including a fee freeze.
At the start of August, the contract for an independent review of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme was awarded to Stranmillis University College, Belfast. This review will look at whether the ECCE scheme is meeting its objectives. It will also identify any changes or improvements that can be made.
From the end of August, the upper-age eligibility for the National Childcare Scheme (NCS) universal subsidy was increased from three years of age to 15 years of age. The minimum rate for the income-assessed subsidy was also increased to 50 cents for all ages.
The beginning of September saw the announcement of a €10 million Capital Grant for the sector. It was announced under the Building Blocks – Improvement Grant. Grants range from €35,000 to €75,000 across two strands. The first strand is Green Energy which supports improvements to increase energy efficiency and utilising renewables where feasible. The second strand is the Retrofit Strand which will support services that require upgrading.
September was also a momentous month in the history of the sector as the Employment Regulation Orders (EROs) were accepted and came into effect. These, for the first time, set minimum wage scales across a range of roles for about 27,000 early years and school age professionals across the country.
The Minister also launched the new funding model for the sector in September. Together for Better brings the ECCE scheme, NCS, and Core Funding together. Core Funding began this month in alignment with the commencement of the EROs.
At the end of September, it was announced that Budget 2023 would include funding of €1.025 billion for the early years and school age care sector. This is an increase of €346 million in funding compared to the previous year. It also means the Government met the investment target of €1 billion five years before the target year of 2028.
It was also revealed that Budget 2023 would introduce reforms to the NCS that would reduce the cost of care on average by 25%. From January 2023, the minimum hourly universal subsidy will increase to €1.40. It was also announced that the requirement of three years of experience will be removed from the Core Funding Graduate Premium.
In November, €150,000 in funding was announced for a pilot scheme to provide meals to children in Early Years settings. This scheme will test a series of meal options for children in Early Eears settings in disadvantaged areas. Options include breakfast or a snack, breakfast or a snack plus a packed lunch for children to bring home, or a hot meal or snack. Pilot settings will also be able to avail of dietician to support the selection of meal options.
It is clear that the second half of 2022 was just as busy as the first half! There were a number of policy developments that led to big changes in the sector. Hopefully all the developments this year will lead to a better and more fruitful 2023 for workers and children.
If you would like to know more about this conference, or speak to us about our work, please get in touch with our Policy, Advocacy and Campaigning team at firstname.lastname@example.org.