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13th Jul 2021

Government under pressure to take “real and immediate action to increase public investment in childcare”

Laura Grainger

According to Early Childhood Ireland, Ireland is “at the bottom of the class” when it comes to investment in childcare.

A new Budget 2022 submission has called on the Government to announce a plan to increase public funding into childcare, warning families have “waited too long.”

The submission, published by Early Childhood Ireland, claims Ireland has remained “at the bottom of the class” when it comes to investment in childcare, investing the “least amount” in early years than “any developed country”.

Today, the organisation calls on the Government to meet its commitment in the national early years strategy, First 5, to at least double investment in the sector by 2028.

Director of Policy with Early Childhood Ireland, Frances Byrne, said: “The Government has committed to reforming and investing in childcare, yet in Budget 2021, despite significant investment in other essential services, childcare funding was not increased.

“We are still without a plan or proposal for adequate funding our sector. Families are poorly served and have waited too long.

“…This lack of investment costs us all. Parents pay the highest childcare fees from take-home pay in the European Union. Providers operate precariously in a highly complex funding model which benefits no-one. Average pay and conditions of employment in the sector remain poor, leading to serious challenges in staff recruitment and retention.

“All of this impacts on the quality of childcare which our youngest citizens deserve as a fundamental public good.”

Ms. Byrne added that the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted childcare as essential, but also exposed the challenges the sector faces, like “historical state underinvestment, complex funding streams and dependence on high parental fees.”

These issues, she claims, warranted a sector-specific version of the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme in order to keep the sector afloat during the pandemic. “The scheme currently supports 80% of salaries in childcare settings, more than in any other sector,” she said.

The group says this has highlighted the need for investment into the childcare sector on a regular basis so providers can always offer the same levels of support to families that the scheme has allowed them to throughout the pandemic.