Policy in Action 21 May 2024

Policy in Action 21 May 2024
Oireachtas Report
.
“Early learning and childcare is a public good” – Minister O’Gorman

The funding model, “Together for Better, recognises early learning and childcare is a public good that demands more investment and more involvement by the State and a closer working partnership with providers with new responsibilities on both sides,” said the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, TD, in response to the Private Members motion, Challenges Facing the Childcare and Nursing Home Sectors, tabled by Marian Harkin TD (Independent) and Michael McNamara TD (Independent).

The Private Members’ motion called on the Government to:

  • increase Core Funding rates in line with inflation;
  • ensure that the fee freeze for all childcare services remaining at historical levels must be reviewed, so that there is a level playing field between new and existing childcare services in regard to the capping of fees;
  • accept the accounts that are prepared, submitted and accepted by Revenue, and not to insist on a second set of accounts under CFCA, which is proving very costly in terms of time and accounting fees, thus pushing many childcare providers over the brink;
  • increase the rate of Early Childhood Care and Education funding from €69 to €100;
  • and index link funding in future budgets to provide for increases to allow for new employment regulation orders for staff each year, additional staff cover due to required ratios, increased sick leave, and pension auto enrolment; and

In response, the Minister stated that “the Government has set out a pathway to address these challenges.” He added that the introduction of Core Funding “has led to a 20 per cent increase in the number of services that are signed up to the National Childcare Scheme (NCS)” and that “with ECCE capitation and core funding combined, services now receive a minimum of €78.20 per child per week under the ECCE programme and a maximum of €95.85 per week, with additional funding for graduate lead educators and graduate managers. In addition to this, small and sessional services benefit from targeted measures which I introduced in 2023 at a cost of €7.2 million, specifically, a flat top-up rate of €4,075 for sessional-only services and the minimum base rate allocation of €8,150. These measures saw the average allocation under core funding for sessional-only services increase by 30 per cent that year.”

Minister O’Gorman said that he stands behind the need to have validated financial returns as it “assures the Government and the public that the extra public money we are investing is being put to that important use.”

Childminding regulations – 3-year transition period for childminders

Legislation to enable the regulation and support of childminders is currently being drafted with a view to the introduction of the Childminding-specific regulations in the autumn. The proposed amendments to the primary legislation, as set out in the Heads of Bill and General Scheme, include a proposed transition period of three years. In line with the National Action Plan for Childminding, this phased approach is intended to give childminders the time to prepare for and meet the new regulation and registration requirements that will be put in place.

Member engagement

It is invaluable that Early Childhood Ireland members across Ireland continue to share their expertise and experience, providing key insights which in turn have influenced national developments in recent years. These have included participation in ‘Open Policy Debates’, a range of Early Childhood Ireland led projects as well as national consultation processes to both learn from and to strengthen practice in settings. To build further on this vital work we are implementing a new strategy to link members to developments in the Early Years and School Age Care system. Our strategy also means we can provide expert support to members who wish to highlight issues which impact on providing quality provision to children in their settings. A recent example is a Case Study we have completed for submission to the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, about Sponsorship under the National Childcare Scheme. This was prompted by a member who brought local implementation issues in their area to our attention.

As this strategy progresses, we will provide more updates and will ensure that this renewed engagement work is visible in a number of ways, including through dedicated member communications, updates in Early Times Weekly and our Childhood Times magazine. We are also delighted to support increasing coverage of the everyday work of our members in local and regional media. This is an important way to grow awareness among the public at large about the impact of high-quality Early Years and School Age Care on children in their own communities.

Contact us

We are very grateful to the member settings who take part in our policy and media initiatives. Ideas, proposals or feedback, are always welcome to [email protected].

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