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The Big Picture: Meetings with Party Spokespeople

The Big Picture: Meetings with Party Spokespeople

In a recent issue of the Big Picture, we wrote about the new Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration and provided a profile on his priorities for the early years sector. As you will know however from our work, Early Childhood Ireland seeks to engage with representatives from across the political spectrum in order to ensure that the government is held to account. With this in mind, the Policy Advocacy and Campaigning team recently met with three of the main Opposition spokespersons on Children, Disability, Equality and Integration in order to outline our concerns, set out Early Childhood Ireland’s priorities and to discuss our plans for Budget 2021.

We met with Deputy Jennifer Whitmore of the Social Democrats’, Senator Ivana Bacik of Labour, and Deputy Kathleen Funchion of Sinn Féin. These three Oireachtas members are each of their respective Party’s spokesperson on Children, Disability, Equality and Integration, and Deputy Funchion has also recently been appointed to chair the Oireachtas Committee on Children, Disability, Equality and Integration. The main scope of the meetings was an opportunity for the representatives to be briefed on the current state of play in the sector so politicians can understand how the re-opening has been handled on the ground by providers and how the support package has impacted on settings.

The TDs and Senator were also able to offer some insights to us on their various Parties thinking surrounding their proposals for Budget 2021 which are currently being developed and we were able to offer feedback to them on their plans. A common thread that was present throughout these conversations was that increased direct investment to support providers through Covid was crucial. The recent measures that were announced by the Minister are welcome, but it is simply not realistic to expect that we would see a return to the system that existed pre-Covid when this crisis passes. This was something that the political representatives agreed with.

With this in mind, and until the expert group on the future funding model delivers its final report, the political system needs to step up to the plate and ensure that an adequate level of “bridging funding” is put in place. This funding should at least equate to the current support package for the sector, the centrepiece of which is the Wage Subsidy Scheme. This is an issue that Early Childhood Ireland will be pursuing as we finalise our Budget 2021 submission which we expect to publish later this month. This submission, we hope, will be accompanied by a smaller scale “Meet the Members” event on October 1. In previous years, our Meet the Members events have been an opportunity for our members to connect with their local TDs and party spokespersons to outline the challenges they face in providing early years care and education. We are planning how best we can provide this engagement in the context of Covid. The Oireachtas members we met with have been invited to attend this event, in whatever format that will take, and all have agreed.

We are very thankful to the Deputies and Senator for taking the time to meet with us.

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