Early Childhood Ireland has called on the Government to transform the Early Years and School Age Care system by including an ambitious five-year plan in Budget 2023.
The organisation, which has 236 members in Galway, said the planned introduction of core funding is an overdue but welcome commitment that will lead to more sustainable provision for children, staff, parents and providers.
However, they said that the government should announce a five-year public investment plan, with clear funding targets and key priorities for each year, if Budget 2023 is to deliver on promised transformation.
Frances Byrne, Director of Policy at Early Childhood Ireland, called on the government to be more ambitious in their plan for the Early Years and School Age Care sector, as years of chronic underinvestment means Ireland is playing catch-up with its EU counterparts.
“Don’t miss this milestone for our children. Ireland has lagged at the bottom of international public investment tables for decades, and this legacy of under-investment has had a severe impact.”
Ms Byrne said that parents in Galway pay some of the highest fees from take-home pay in the European Union.
“Providers, overly dependent on these fees, have operated precariously in a complex and fragile funding model.
“The average pay and conditions of staff in the sector remains poor, leading to continuing challenges in staff recruitment and retention, which in turn impact on the provision of consistent, high-quality care and education to our youngest citizens,” she said.
Ms Byrne said for 2023 and beyond, a coherent multi-annual plan is needed to offer certainty to families, the workforce and operators in Galway.
“Quality care and education does not happen overnight. Long-term planning is essential for providers to invest in their people, their settings and to give parents security.
“Early Years and School Age Care cannot be allowed to totter from one year to the next, we need a plan that builds confidence for families and providers.
“This should be combined with an increase in Core Funding, which should take account of inflation and any agreed sector pay scales. We also ask that subsidies offered under the National Childcare Scheme are increased, and a national communications plan should be launched to promote the scheme to parents.”