National Pyjama Day 2023

Policy in Action 28 November 2023

Policy in Action 28 November 2023
First 5 Phase 2 (2023-2025) Implementation Plan and new Young Ireland Framework

Last week, on Monday 20 November 2023, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) marked Children’s Day by launching the latest implementation plan for First 5, the ten-year whole of government strategy for babies, young children and their families. The Implementation plan was launched with speeches by the Minister Roderic O’Gorman TD, the CEO of the Children’s Rights Alliance Tanya Ward and DCEDIY Assistant Secretary General Anne-Marie Brooks. Representatives from Early Childhood Ireland, Pobal and a wide range of other stakeholders from across the Early Years and School Age Care (EY and SAC) sector. Particularly memorable was the attendance of staff, children and parents from a local service, who played in outdoor play spaces developed for the day.

First 5 Implementation Plan 2023-2025

The following relevant actions are outlined for 2023 to 2025 in the Implementation Plan:

  • Extending the individual entitlement to Parent’s Leave and Benefit from seven weeks to nine weeks, with a target that by 2028 parents will be supported to spend the time at home for the first year of their child’s life.
  • Introducing measures to address food poverty, specifically the provision of targeted funding for the provision of meals to children in early learning and care and school-age childcare services serving disadvantaged communities.
  • Introducing the Equal Participation Model (EPM) to maximise participation and inclusion of disadvantaged children in early learning and care and school-age childcare settings. Phase 1 of the EPM to be rolled out in 2024, with phase 2 to begin in 2025.
  • Expanding supports under the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) beyond the ECCE pre-school programme beginning in 2024 and, subject to the 2024 expansion, expansion to children between birth and three in 2025.
  • Preparations for the introduction of a legal entitlement to the ECCE pre-school programme. The policy response for this is due for formulation in 2024 with implementation in 2025.
  • A design and implementation planning process to bring together the functions carried out by Tusla’s Early Years Inspectorate and the Department of Education (DE) Inspectorate’s Early Years team into a single body that provides integrated care and education inspections. A full implementation plan is scheduled to be developed in 2025.
  • A design and implementation planning phase for the establishment of dedicated state agency for early learning and care and school-age childcare
  • 60,000 new spaces for children in EY and SAC settings.
  • A new national play policy to be drafted in 2025, national policy statements on outdoor learning and play and the use of digital technologies and learning to be fully published by 2025
  • Actions to advance the inclusion and participation of young children and babies in matters that concern them
  • A revised investment target for the EY and SAC sector, as the previous investment target had been met in Budget 2023

You can read more about the Implementation Plan on the First 5 website, as well as the entire First 5 Strategy.

Young Ireland and the Children and Young People’s Indicator Set

In addition to the launch of the First 5 Implementation Plan, the Department also launched the Young Ireland, National Policy Framework for Children and Young People 2023-2028, as well as the Children and Young People’s Indicator Set.

Young Ireland, which encompasses parts of First 5, is informed by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which sets out the rights of children and young people up to the age of 18 and forms the basis for the vision of the framework. The stated aim of this Policy Framework is to provide a platform to realise the rights of children and young people in Ireland, so that all partners can work effectively together to ensure children and young people can thrive. The Policy Framework will re-establish governance structures to drive policy development and implementation, while demonstrating accountability for children and young people’s policy.

The Children and Young People’s (CYP) Indicator Set Indicator Set is a comprehensive collection of indicators relating to the lives of children and young people from birth to 24 years in Ireland. Developed by the DCEDIY, it aims to track progress across each of the national outcomes outlined in Young Ireland. The CYP Indicator Set replaces the previous indicator set used for the Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures (BOBF) national policy framework 2014–2020.

To coincide with this, the Department also launched the report Statistical Spotlight #11: Children and Young People Indicators Set – Outcome “Active and Healthy”. An International Comparison. The Spotlight collates available data from the Children and Young People’s indicator set outcome “Active and Healthy” and gives an international comparison. The spotlight report shines a light on and collates a wide source of information on how children in Ireland are faring in terms of activity levels and health. Content in this report shows that Ireland has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe, with 40 per cent of infants breastfed at three months in 2021 in comparison to 60 per cent in Europe overall. On the other hand, immunisation rates for measles in Ireland lie at 90 per cent not far off the European average of 92 per cent. While the proportion of Irish children meeting Ireland’s national physical activity guidelines for children is among the highest in Europe. The report hopes to highlight the need for comparable international data across all aspect of children’s lives.

Conclusion

Early Childhood Ireland welcome these policy documents, and the commitments in First 5 are of particular importance as we advocate for quality for all children in Early Years, School Age Care and Childminding settings, through our work with our members, They will be incorporated into our national policy monitoring, tracking and analysis.

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If you are interested in hearing more about our Oireachtas work or our engagement with members about policy development, please contact us on policy@earlychildhoodireland.ie.

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