– Leading support organisation says now is the time to bring the sector another step closer to Scandinavian model –
In the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, the Government has a unique opportunity to build a more coherent and fit-for-purpose system for early years and school-age childcare. That’s according to Early Childhood Ireland, the leading organisation in the childcare sector, which today (30.08.20) said the challenges presented by Covid-19 could be the driving force needed to bring Ireland closer to the Scandinavian childcare model.
Early Childhood Ireland, which supports 3,800 childcare members nationwide, was commenting today ahead of the planned reopening of 3,000 creches and afterschool childcare settings as the 2020/2021 school year commences. Over 1,500 providers have already reopened in line with government guidelines.
Teresa Heeney, CEO of Early Childhood Ireland, said: “As the new academic year starts and we look forward to the Budget announcement in October, the Government has an opportunity to take some practical steps to bring our childcare system closer to the internationally-lauded Scandinavian model.
“Firstly, we need to see increased and sustained investment in childcare. Early Childhood Ireland is calling for investment in the sector under both the 2021 Budget and the new National Development Plan.
“If we don’t get this right, Irish parents will continue to pay high fees, staff will remain low-paid, and providers will be left to battle the obstacles of an unsustainable system which could, and should, be addressed by the Department once and for all. Ireland is at the bottom of the EU investment league and it is now time for the Government to present a timeline for year-on-year funding which will change this, so that children and their families can have the same quality experiences we see in other countries.”
Real-Time Monitoring of Capacity within the Sector Must Now Include Staffing Levels
Ahead of the re-opening of early-years childcare settings in late June, Early Childhood Ireland had called on the Government to monitor capacity within the childcare sector on a week-to-week basis. Today, the organisation welcomed the fact that a weekly monitoring system is now in place.
“We very much welcome the fact that the Department of Children and Youth Affairs is now monitoring capacity and vacancies in all childcare settings each week,” said Teresa Heeney. “We urge the Department to use the real-time data being captured to ensure that the capacity and sustainability of the sector does not decrease during this crucial period.
“It is also vital that staffing levels are measured on a weekly basis. There is widespread concern about staff who may need to isolate while undergoing Covid testing and awaiting results, leaving them unavailable to attend work. This has huge knock-on effects on the capacity of our members to operate within the proper adult-child ratios. In time, special measures may be needed to address any widespread reductions in staffing levels.”