Policy in Action 30 April 2024

Policy in Action 30 April 2024
Oireachtas report

Several important issues concerning the Early Years and School Age Care sector have been raised in the Dáil recently. These include:

Quality in Early Years (EY) and School Age Care (SAC)

Core Funding Quality Action Plan Report due by 28 July 2024: Core Funding Partner Services will be required to complete and submit a Quality Action Plan for the programme year 2023-24 by 28 July 2024, according to a parliamentary question asked by Fianna Fail’s Sean Haughey TD.

To drive high-quality service provision, Core Funding requires all Early Years (EY) and School Age Care (SAC) and Childminding services that benefit from Core Funding to complete a quality planning template annually, using tools provided by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth and their agents to compile their Core Funding Quality Action Plan.

Core Funding Partner Services can submit their Quality Action Plan Report from 20 May 2024 to 28 July 2024. Guidance can be found here.

Less than 50 per cent of EY and SAC services have participated in Better Start Quality Development Service (QDS). Despite a significant increase in funding for the Better Start Quality Development Service (QDS) since its inception in 2014, only 2,100 of the 4,483 registered Early Years and School Age Care services have participated in the initiative.

Funding for the Better Start QDS increased from €2.5m in 2014 to €4.5m in 2023. The figures were provided by the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman TD, in a parliamentary question tabled by Deputy Seán Haughey (Fianna Fáil)

The QDS provides a skilled and experienced team of Early Years Specialists (EYS) to work directly in a mentoring capacity with early learning and care services, on a national basis. The Early Years Specialists use the Aistear Síolta Practice Guide (National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, 2014) as a key resource in mentoring services to develop quality for children. They usually visit the service on a weekly or fortnightly basis, over a period of about six months. These supports are delivered to support the provision of high-quality services and promote positive outcomes for children. Service providers can find out more about the initiative here.

Core Funding

Increase in providers signed up to Core Funding: “At the end of March 2024, 4,365 providers were signed up to Core Funding. This is an increase of 3.5% or 151 additional services on the same period last year,” according to the Minister for Public Expenditure, National Plan Delivery and Reform, Paschal Donohoe TD. He was responding to a parliamentary question from Deputy Thomas Gould (Sinn Féin) who asked about funding for the Early Years and School Age Care sector.

Staff pay and conditions

“I understand that the Joint Labour Committee (JLC) has submitted new draft Employment Regulation Orders (EROs) to the Labour Court proposing a 5 per cent increase in minimum rates for all grades and the removal of the three years’ experience requirement for graduate minimum pay rates,” said Minister O’Gorman in a response to a parliamentary question from the Leader of the Social Democrats, Holly Cairns TD.

If the JLC adopts proposals for a further ERO for the EY and SAC sector, it will submit them to the Labour Court for consideration. The Labour Court will then make a decision on the adoption of the proposals.  If the Court decides to adopt the proposals, a copy will be presented to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Peter Burke TD, and, if he considers it appropriate to do so, he will make an ERO giving effect to the proposals.

The Minister has not yet received a proposal from the Labour Court in relation to a new ERO.

Single Agency for the Early Years and School Age Care sector

A Steering Group (SG) is now being formed to lead the design and implementation planning process for a single body that provides integrated care and education inspections for the Early Years and School Age Care sector with the aim of bringing proposals back to Government for consideration in 2025. More information here. Early Childhood Ireland has published a policy proposal on the establishment of a Single Agency for the Early Years and School Age Care sector, more here.

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If you have any questions or queries about our work or wish to raise an issue that you feel is impacting children, please contact [email protected].

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