‘Don’t miss this milestone for our children’ – Early Childhood Ireland asks Government to announce an ambitious five-year plan to transform Early Years and School Age Care
– Annual funding targets and priorities must be made clear if Government is to meet its commitment to double public investment by 2028 –
Early Childhood Ireland, the leading organisation in the early years sector, has today (14.07.22) called on the Government to transform the Early Years and School Age Care system by including an ambitious five-year plan in Budget 2023.
The organisation said the planned introduction of Core Funding is an overdue but welcome commitment that will lead to more sustainable provision for children, staff, parents and providers. However, Government should announce a five-year public investment plan, with clear funding targets and key priorities for each year, if Budget 2023 is to deliver on promised transformation.
Frances Byrne, Director of Policy at Early Childhood Ireland, called on the Government to be more ambitious in their plan for the Early Years and School Age Care sector, as years of chronic underinvestment means Ireland is playing catch-up with its EU counterparts. “Don’t miss this milestone for our children.
“Ireland has lagged at the bottom of international public investment tables for decades, and this legacy of under-investment has had a severe impact.
“Parents in Ireland pay some of the highest fees from take-home pay in the European Union. Providers, overly dependent on these fees, have operated precariously in a complex and fragile funding model.
“The average pay and conditions of staff in the sector remains poor, leading to continuing challenges in staff recruitment and retention, which in turn impact on the provision of consistent, high-quality care and education to our youngest citizens.”
Early Childhood Ireland’s key asks for Budget 2023
Early Childhood Ireland supports 3,900 members nationwide, who – in turn – support more than 120,000 children and their families with essential provision of Early Years and School Age Care and Education. The organisation recognised that Budget 2022 marked a turning point in the State’s approach to the Early Years and School Age Care sector.
Ms. Byrne said for 2023 and beyond, a coherent multi-annual plan is needed to offer certainty to families, the workforce and operators. “Quality care and education does not happen overnight. Long-term planning is essential for providers to invest in their people, their settings and to give parents security. Early Years and School Age Care cannot be allowed to totter from one year to the next, we need a plan that builds confidence for families and providers.
“This should be combined with an increase in Core Funding, which should take account of inflation and any agreed sector pay scales. We also ask that subsidies offered under the National Childcare Scheme are increased, and a national communications plan should be launched to promote the scheme to parents.”
The Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) should also be extended beyond the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme, and Nurturing Skills, the sector’s workforce plan, should also be implemented.
Ms Byrne said it is important to invest in our children now, to ensure they can reach all their developmental milestones. “Our children deserve to have a well-funded Early Years and School Age Care sector, just like children in other EU countries.”
Please click here to read Early Childhood Ireland’s Budget 2023 submission.