Programme for Government Demands

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High quality Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) services[1] enhance children’s development, support families, promote social inclusion, reduce child poverty and enhance future employability. Affordable services facilitate workforce participation for parents; particularly for women.

Despite these benefits and significant increases in investment, Ireland spends just 0.2% of GDP on ECEC. This is far below the European average of 0.8% and the UNICEF recommended benchmark of 1%. This funding gap has resulted in:

1. Irish parents paying the highest fees in Europe[2]

2. 61% of Early Years Educators earning below the Living Wage resulting in a 23% staff turnover rate[3]

3. A recruitment and retention crisis that is severely undermining the sustainability of providers[4]

The current ECEC funding model does not work. The National Childcare Scheme will not directly support the sustainability of services or improve pay. Indeed, there is no guarantee that subsidies will significantly reduce the fees for all parents. A new funding model will be necessary to ensure increased investment delivers high quality experiences for children, accessible, affordable services for parents, financially sustainable services and educators paid a decent wage.

‘Together for Early Years’ is calling on the next government to:

1. Double funding[5] to Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) services on an incremental basis over the lifetime of the next government, starting in September 2020, from €638m to €1,276m

2. Provide the necessary funding and mechanism for a Living Wage for Early Years Educators in 2020 as a first step towards professional pay scales and career progression within the lifetime of the next government

3. Introduce a new funding model that supports affordability and accessibility for parents, high quality experiences for children, sustainability for providers and professional pay and conditions for educators, as committed to in First 5, the Whole of Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families[6]

4. Establish a streamlined inspection process with a graded compliance system

5. Support effective policy development by engagement with the ECEC sector through respectful negotiation and a co-design approach that will actively involve all stakeholders.

‘Together for Early Years’ is an umbrella group consisting of Association of Childhood Professionals, the Federation of Early Childhood Providers, the National Community Childcare Forum, the National Childhood Network, Seas Suas and SIPTU.

[1] Early Childhood Education and Care services registered with TUSLA for 0–5 years olds e.g. pre-school, crèche, Montessori

[2] Eurydice Report (2019)

[3] POBAL Early years Sector Profile 2018 / 2019 (2019)

[4] Early Childhood Ireland Staffing Survey 2019 Results (2019)

[5] First 5 commits to doubling state spending on Early Learning and Care within 10 years

[6] As part of First 5 an international expert group has been established to develop a new funding model https://www.gov.ie/en/press-release/d5dfdb-minister-zappone-announces-expert-group-to-develop-a-new-funding-mod/

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