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Policy in Action 5 December 2023

Policy in Action 5 December 2023

Minister questioned on Core Funding requirements at Oireachtas Children’s Committee

 

Financial reporting

“We are close to…having something good, some clarity in the next day or two” regarding proposals for Core Funding financial returns, according to the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman TD, at the Oireachtas Committee on Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, last week (28 November 2023).

Minister O’Gorman was responding to a question from Sean Sherlock TD (Labour) who asked if the Minister would “offer something to the sector now, by way of financial supports to meet the cost, or allowing for a greater amount of time for the sector to report.” The Minister told the Committee that, following meetings between officials from his Department and representatives from the Early Years (EY) and School Age Care (SAC) sector, officials were writing up detailed proposals regarding financial returns, which will go out to the sector once he has approved them.

Small Early Years and School Age Care providers

Deputy Michael Creed (Fine Gael) asked the Minister if he had “any handle on the likely exit from the sector of smaller, privately owned providers,…particularly the ECCE-only providers.” In response, the Minister stated that it is “my policy and the policy of the Department that we welcome a variety of providers” in the Early Years and School Age Care sector. “We want diversity of services in how early learning and care is provided because different parents want different things.” He added that sometimes the Department is “accused of trying to get rid of small providers” and that is “in no way the case.” This year, he added, the sector is seeing the lowest number of closures in the last five years, and one of the highest in terms of new services.

Minister O’Gorman outlined his Department’s response to the main issues that have arisen with service providers since Core Funding has been introduced.

  1. New proposals on financial reporting for service providers are imminent.
  2. The Department is undertaking a full review of the administrative burden on providers.
  3. Year 3 of Core Funding will be used to tailor and target Core Funding to those service that will need support.

With the above measures in place, the Minister expects to see a fall in the closure of services and an increase in new services.

Lack of an Employment Regulation Order (ERO) affecting payment of Graduate Premiums.

The Chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Kathleen Funchion TD (Sinn Féin), asked Minister O’Gorman why there was an underspend on Early Years in his Department.

The Minister told the Committee that due to the lack of an ERO agreement for Year 2 of Core Funding, the money that had been set aside to remove the three-year waiting requirement before an EY/SAC educator received their Graduate Premium, “had to be given back” to the Department of Expenditure and Reform. “The sooner a new ERO is signed, the sooner that additional money can flow,” said the Minister.

Minister O’Gorman added that there was a small underspend on the National Childcare Scheme (NCS) because “a lot of the uptake on that has been on School Age Care, rather than full-day childcare.”

You can watch a video of the full meeting here.

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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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