2022 is already busy on the policy front for our sector. The current focus is on the proposed new Core Funding contract, which was announced by the government last month. We are committed to supporting our valued members to navigate this complex area, to achieve the highest quality for children. We are also actively engaging with decision-makers to highlight key concerns. In this week’s Policy Brief, we review this and other significant developments since the start of the year.
Single Agency for the Sector
The first quarter ended with the publication of the long-awaited ‘Independent Review of the Operating Model’ which was commissioned by the Department of Children and undertaken by Indecon Economic Consultants. The Review concluded that a dedicated State Agency is the optimal operating model. This Agency, which Early Childhood Ireland has been calling for since 2019, would be responsible for functions currently undertaken by Pobal Better Start and the CCCs, as well as the operational functions currently undertaken by the DCEDIY.
Since the start of the year, there have been other significant developments.
Annual Barometer 2022
Our fifth annual Barometer was published in February. For the last five years, we’ve commissioned RED C to conduct a nationwide opinion poll designed to gauge public attitudes to our sector. Looking at the results over five years, the consistent support across the country is very heartening.
This year’s poll found that 80% of people in Ireland believe that children have a right to free, high quality and accessible early years care and education. Three-quarters of people in Ireland (75%) believe that, like primary school education, early years care and education should be free. This represents a steep rise in support for publicly-funded provision – the equivalent figure in the 2021 Barometer was 61%.
The Barometer’s findings continue to reach into the political and media worlds throughout the year, influencing decision-makers and shaping public debate about the vital work of our members.
International Women’s Day
On International Women’s Day, Early Childhood Ireland called on the government to fully recognise and value our sector’s vital workforce, 98% of whom are women. We reiterated the results of the Barometer which found that just under three-quarters of people in Ireland (73%) support better terms and conditions for qualified staff who work directly with children. The Barometer also found that 71% of people believe that the education of children under 5 is as important as the education of children over 5, an increase of 9% from the 2021 result (62%).
Core Funding Proposals
Since the announcement of the Core Funding contract, we have initiated several key actions, including:
- Our own ongoing policy analysis of the proposed contract;
- Engagement with the Department of Children and other policymakers;
- A national member survey has revealed high levels of uncertainty and a desire for further information about the proposed core funding;
- The establishment of the New Funding Member Reference Group.
We will continue to engage with members on this important development for our sector. We have also written to every member of the Oireachtas to share the findings of our survey and to advocate for quality for children.
Our policy team is always available to members. Please email us if you have any questions.