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Our rationale for seeking reform of the ECCE programme

January 29, 2020

Early Childhood Ireland is seeking a reform of the ECCE programme. This decision is based on many insights we have received from members over the years and some of that is detailed below. The below points highlight the rationale behind our decision.

 

Sustainability

Early Childhood Ireland has been asked by members since 2015 to urge the DCYA to extend the current ‘ECCE year’ to 52 weeks. They tell us that this is because the shorter year affects their sustainability and ability to plan.

 

Staff Recruitment & Retention

Many settings must lay staff off for the summer, owing to the current 38-week ECCE year. Approximately 10% of the sector’s workforce goes on the dole each year for this period. Re-hiring or recruiting new replacement staff every September puts some of our members under severe pressure.

 

Government Policy

It is the intention of the government to ‘wrap’ ECCE into the National Childcare Scheme (NCS). We have proposed a Consultative Forum with our members to seek their views on this issue. It is vital that individual settings would still have autonomy to choose their offering to parents.

 

How would it work?

This is not clear. We assume that if/when the ECCE scheme is extended, it will be phased in over a few years. For example, it might go up to 40 weeks in 2021 and then 42 in 2022 and so on. It is worth noting that each of the Parties which are expected to lead the formation of the next government have committed to increasing it: Fianna Fáil proposes moving to a 40-week Scheme; Fine Gael proposed 42 weeks.

 

 

What say can our members have in this?

The DCYA will hold nationwide consultations as part of important work on a proposed new Funding Model. It is essential that Early Childhood Ireland’s members attend and have their say on current schemes, including ECCE, and what will work in the future. We understand the CCCs will be organising these consultation events shortly.

 

What about members who wish to stay with 38 weeks?

Early Childhood Ireland’s position is that members should have autonomy over what they offer to parents in their community. The 52-week year would not be compulsory.

 

 

What about parents’ views/needs?

Parents who work outside the home avail of other options now to cover the summer period, if their crèche closes. Other parents could stay with a 38-week year. For example, though the NCS is a full-year Scheme, settings close for Christmas, Easter and a summer period.

 

What possible changes to the ECCE scheme should be considered?

We have heard many suggestions from members about possible reforms to the ECCE scheme including, increasing the number of hours per day, reinstatement of a 2nd entry point, extension of the number of paid holiday weeks, reduction in ratios. All of these possible reforms should be considered within a review.

 

What about children? Isn’t 52 weeks bad for them?

While an extended ECCE year would mean subsidies could be paid to settings for the whole year, they would still close for Christmas, Easter and a summer period.

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