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Workforce Development & Funding – The two critical issues for our sector are at a vital juncture

Workforce Development & Funding – The two critical issues for our sector are at a vital juncture

August 25, 2020

Ireland’s national early years strategy, First 5, envisages a graduate-led workforce by 2028, and while this target may now seem implausible, especially given the impact of COVID-19 on every aspect of life, the staffing challenges faced by our members are formidable, and need to be addressed.  The COVID-19 lockdown and reopening phases have also shown both the fragility of the sector’s funding base, and its central importance in the lives of children, their families and the wider economy society.

 

It is welcome therefore, that the newly configured Department of Children wasted no time, post-lockdown, to revisit the consultations with the sector about the vital areas of workforce development and future funding, which has been arranged from March of this year.  The deadline for written submissions was announced last week as 2 October.  The planned consultations, albeit now ‘COVID proof’, which are due to take place over the autumn are also a significant opportunity for providers and staff to consider a range of questions and possible solutions about the two areas.

 

Our collective responses will need to be both creative and pragmatic.  We will need to emphasise the central role which well-qualified and well-resourced staff play in a quality, fit-for-purpose Early Years and School Age care and education system. Last year, Early Childhood Ireland received funding from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) to support a research study with the theme, ‘Pathways to Better Prospects: Delivering Decent Terms and Conditions for Early Years Workers in Ireland’.  We were delighted to award the tender for this work to a research team at the University of Limerick, led by Dr. Michelle O’Sullivan.  The research report will be launched next month, and we hope that it also will make a significant contribution to the policy discussions in Ireland and further afield about the Early Years and School Age workforce.  We will keep members updated about the launch.

 

The importance of a sound funding base will also need to be highlighted by all stakeholders in our submissions and at the proposed consultations.  Early Childhood Ireland has shown through its annual Childcare Barometers, the high extent of public support for greater investment in our sector. 

 

A coherent national plan that moves both the workforce and funding model for the sector from 2021 to 2028, and beyond is what Early Childhood Ireland expects to see next year. 

 

The ongoing issues of staff recruitment and retention need a proper, sustainable solution.  Now, and in the medium and long-term, our workforce needs to be recognised and valued as it should have been long before now. No progress in this area or any other will be possible though unless Ireland moves from the bottom of the EU childcare investment league. 

 

While there are numerous pressures now more than ever on time, energy and headspace, we hope that majority of operators and staff will be able to participate by making submissions and attending consultations.  Your expert voices and views were never more needed by the thousands of babies and children in your settings.

 

Submissions to the Department can be made by 2 October at these links:

Workforce Development Plan (English): Submit Here

Workforce Development Plan (Gaeilge): Submit Here

Funding Model (English): Submit Here

Funding Model (Gaeilge): Submit Here

 

As usual, if members have any queries about Early Childhood Ireland’s policy work, please contact policy@earlychildhoodireland.ie and we will do our best to help you.

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