Statement from Teresa Heeney CEO of Early Childhood Ireland regarding reports about extension in parental leave to one year
“Childcare is a big election issue and we expect to see such kite flying about extending parental leave to engage the electorate, as well as proposals about after school care and a second pre school year. But we need a whole plan that addresses the current weaknesses in capitation levels, the salaries and conditions of the workforce and affordability and choice for parents.
“Decisions about the type of childhood we want for children must be the cornerstone of any plan. This must be as important as getting parents back to work. The extension of parental leave to one year over the next 5 years would reflect international evidence that confirms that young children do better in their first year when they are at home with parents. Parents would welcome such a policy shift as well and we welcome the proposal that some of the time would be shared among parents.
“This plan is, however, only one of many required. This sector has been badly hit by underinvestment.
“Early Childhood Ireland has been part of the inter departmental group discussions about proposals under consideration for the early childhood care and education sector in Ireland and the hard fact that Ireland must move from our current 0.2% investment of GDP to 0.7% over the next 5 to 6 years, if we are to get the real results in terms of quality, accessible, affordable childcare that we require.
“Issues such as commercial rates being levied on early childhood education services must be addressed. Commercial rates bills are doubling at the moment and this will definitely result in increased fees for parents if not addressed by government.
“We must also consider ceilings on childcare fees linked to the percentage of household income. For example, 15% is the current OECD average in contrast with today’s parents in Ireland who are paying 34% of household income. Again, this will require greater state investment.
“Meanwhile, those providing the service are really struggling with sustainability and this must be addressed as a priority too, and something we have stressed with Minister Reilly’s inter departmental group. Our members can’t survive without a capitation level that covers the costs and allows a sufficient margin. Today, there is simply not enough money in the sector.
“We know from Pobal 2014 figures that 31% of existing services report themselves as full, which means that 69% of services currently have vacancies. Only 35% of urban facilities report being full while 28% of rural services say that they are full and, according to Pobal, this can be extrapolated to a total of 31500 vacant places in childcare settings nationally. We know that every county is showing a significant level of current over supply of childcare places. We are hopeful for an announcement on displacement shortly and we are looking forward to our members meeting Minister Reilly at our forthcoming conference on April 18 in Croke Park about this and other issues.
“This sector is a sizeable employer, employing approximately 25000 women. However, many of these women are earning less than €10 per hour. A wage of 15 hours per week at €10 per hour for 38 week year is earning €5700 per annum. This makes it impossible for a person to stay in this sector long term. We need to work towards building a profession wherein the jobs are sufficient to retain expertise and skill in the sector, a 35 hour per week, 52 week per year.
“We know that Minister Reilly is particularly concerned about after school care. This area is completely unregulated but many of our members are providing excellent services for children and families around the country. A plan to address afterschool must build on their work.
“The Department of Children and Youth Affairs must develop a plan with all stakeholders that looks after children, families, the workforce and operators to sustain this sector for the next 20 years.”
Further information: Teresa Heeney 087 7671481 or Carmel Doyle 087 2473537
Early Childhood Ireland represents over 3,500 childcare professional members who support over 100,000 children and their families through preschool, afterschool and full daycare provision nationwide. Its work includes quality enhancement, publications, advocacy, training, business support and information for a sector that employs 25,000 people today.