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Urging Minister to Restore €2 cut in ECCE scheme contracts

April 17, 2015

Early Childhood Ireland CEO urges Minister for Children to restore the €2 cut in ECCE scheme contracts and warns that inspection process in danger of drowning sector

Early Childhood Ireland CEO urges Minister for Children to restore the €2 cut in ECCE scheme contracts as part of the Spring Statement being prepared on the economic priorities pre budget – as more crèches and preschools struggle with sustainability in a sector that is not properly recognized or funded

Teresa Heeney also warns that, “The inspection process is in danger of drowning this sector” at Early Childhood Ireland conference in Croke Park today

The high quality learning experiences for young children being showcased at the Early Childhood Ireland conference “Play on the Brain” taking place in Croke Park Conference Centre today and tomorrow with 700 participants, is in stark contrast with the huge shortage of funding and recognition for the early childhood care and education sector which is forcing many people out according to Early Childhood Ireland.

Teresa Heeney, CEO of Early Childhood Ireland urged Minister for Children, Dr. James Reilly to restore the €2 cut in the ECCE scheme contracts as part of the spring Statement and in time for this September 2015 term start, as more crèches and preschools struggle to keep their doors open in a sector that is not properly recognized or funded.  She makes this call to action on funding in advance of Minister Reilly’s opening of day two of the conference tomorrow Saturday 18th April at 9am, after which a small  delegation from Early Childhood Ireland will meet the Minister to discuss commercial rates and VAT, problems with the ECCE (partially free preschool scheme) contract, the inspection processes and the delay in hiring inspectors, support for children with additional needs and recognising the sector as professionals with appropriate pay and conditions.

Speaking at the opening session of the conference in Croke Park this afternoon, Teresa Heeney said:

“Outside of funding, inspection is a key concern and the inspection process is in danger of drowning this sector. TUSLA, the Department of Education & Science and Pobal inspect early childhood education facilities. This sector needs reassurances that there will be no duplication and that they will not be burdened with ever increasing amounts of paperwork. These statutory agencies must work together and with the sector to ensure that they are working in an aligned way that makes sense for children and for this sector.

“Yes, we’ve primarily got play on the brain today and tomorrow at the conference, but we’ve also got investment on the brain and inspection on the brain and some other major issues that our delegation will put to Minister Reilly tomorrow when he opens the second day of the conference.

“It’s ironic to watch the doctors negotiating rates for the care of under 6’s when the early childhood care and education sector was given no such opportunity to negotiate on rates for the ECCE scheme which is totally underfunded and not sustainable for too many of our members.  Their entire independence was taken from them overnight. Literally overnight. And without consultation.  And there has been no negotiation since. We simply can’t consider a second year of ECCE, without getting the first year right in terms of funding, training and administration.

“Today, it’s our members that are sustaining this scheme out of their own pockets, particularly in relation to facilitating children with additional needs.  That’s not right and not economically viable.  I don’t know any other profession where people would forfeit their own salary to keep their practice going.  It’s reckless trading.  We need immediate action from the Minister in terms of the restoration of the €2 cut in the ECCE scheme contracts in time for this September 2015 term start.  That’s just a first step to a proper level of investment in this sector over the next 5 years, and moving Ireland from it’s pathetic 0.2% GDP investment compared to the 0.7% we should be at in order to have the kind of childcare infrastructure this country requires.

“When will people understand the benefits of investing in the early years?  And we must move the discussion on from why Ireland is top of the European league table on the cost of childcare, to why Ireland is bottom of that league table on State investment.  We can’t have top quality without the right investment, the maths just don’t add up.”

Ends.

Further information: Teresa Heeney 087 7671481 or Carmel Doyle 087 2473537

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