As many settings reopen this week, we have re-iterated our calls that the Government prioritise children in the upcoming budget. Our 2023 budget submission, which launched in July, asked the Government to transform the Early Years and School Age Care system by including an ambitious five-year plan with clear funding targets and key priorities for each year in Budget 2023.
For decades, Ireland has lagged at the bottom of international public investment tables 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.
The government must put in place a coherent multi-annual plan 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. The plans for each year from 2024 – 2027 should provide detailed annual targets focussed on guaranteeing access to high-quality Early Years and School Age Care and education to every child in every family and community by 2028.
Last year’s Budget announcement marked a turning point in the State’s approach to the Early Years and School Age Care sector, and the introduction of Core Funding represented a statement of intent that the delivery of a sustainable service for children, staff, parents, and providers, is a key priority. The Government must publish a clear and comprehensive plan which sets out how these objectives will be achieved.
We will continue to advocate on these issues in the run up to Budget 2023 which is due to be announced on September 27. If you have any questions about our work please drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.