Early Childhood Ireland, the membership organisation for the early years sector, has written to general election candidates in every constituency this week, asking them to support three vital initiatives in the next Programme for Government. “Now that we know who is standing for election to the Dáil on February 8, Early Childhood Ireland has immediately written to candidates about the tipping point which our 3,800 members are facing as 2020 begins,” said Teresa Heeney, CEO of Early Childhood Ireland.
“The past 10 years have seen unprecedented transformation, re-organisation and funding changes in our sector. While some of these developments have been positive and investment has increased, childcare services all over Ireland are facing into a new decade with unparalleled challenges.
The three initiatives that Early Childhood Ireland is calling for are:
1. A cross-party plan and roadmap to increase investment in early years to 1% of GDP by 2025.
2. The establishment of a single early years and school age childcare agency to coordinate all existing early years functions, including inspection, funding, quality and planning.
3. Reform of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme to extend it to 52 weeks and increase capitation rates.
“Early years educators cannot be expected to survive on their vocational commitment,” said Ms. Heeney. “They deserve a comprehensive career and pay structure, which childcare providers must be able to fund. Its absence has resulted in a turnover of staff that is at an all-time high and means that many skilled people are being lost to our sector. This is an added pressure on providers who must meet adult-to-child ratios; and means that they are constantly engaged in recruitment.
“At the same time, many providers themselves are unable to take a regular wage and, owing to the current structure of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme, thousands of educators are laid off every summer and must go on the dole. These are ongoing injustices, which can only be addressed through additional public investment. A commitment from every political party, as well as Independents, is essential, to achieve this. We look forward to receiving their support.”