The Government has an unprecedented opportunity to act to increase investment in the childcare sector. That is the message Early Childhood Ireland, the largest organisation in the early years sector, will present to the Special Oireachtas Committee on Covid-19 Response, tomorrow, Tuesday 23rd June at 2pm.
Early Childhood Ireland made a detailed written submission to the Committee in recent weeks and has been invited to present to the Committee during tomorrow’s session.
Representing 3,800 childcare members nationwide, Early Childhood Ireland will recommend that any funding model introduced must bring Ireland from the bottom to the top of the EU investment table by incorporating the actions envisaged in the First 5 strategy, published in 2018.
Speaking today ahead of her presentation to the Special Oireachtas Committee, Teresa Heeney, CEO of Early Childhood Ireland, said that – while the sector welcomes the Government’s support package for reopening – further clarity is needed to ease anxiety among providers who are preparing to reopen on Monday 29th of June and those will need to reopen from late August.
“The special measures for childcare taken in response to the Covid-19 crisis is a tacit acceptance of the long-standing precariousness of our sector,” she said. “Pre-existing issues with recruiting and retaining staff have been exacerbated by this pandemic, as some workers may elect not to return to work and travel restrictions may inhibit the return or recruitment of workers from outside Ireland. Serious consideration is needed on how staffing levels can be maintained in this context.”
Ms. Heeney also highlighted that the increased running costs which will be incurred because of Covid-19 safety measures must be supported by government. She said: “Sustainability is a great concern, but we don’t believe that tax-breaks or direct payments to parents to offset costs are the answer. We want to see the incoming Government, as it has promised, to ramp up investment in the National Childcare Scheme and implement the supporting actions on workforce development as outlined in the First 5 Strategy.
“Early years care and education is a vital right for babies and children and an essential service that allows our society and economy to function. This will be even more apparent as people adapt to non-traditional working arrangements in a post-Covid-19 landscape. Families in Ireland deserve high-quality early years provision and our economy will require a well-resourced and sustainable system if it is to recover and to thrive.”