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04th Oct 2018

Underinvestment in early years sector impacting the sustainability of childcare

Melissa Carton

Severe underinvestment in early years sector is causing serious staffing challenges.

The news of these issues comes as Minister Katherine Zappone and members of the Oireachtas meet childcare providers to hear their pre-Budget concerns.

Early Childhood Ireland held a pre-Budget event in Dublin today with early-years providers from throughout Ireland. Dr. Katherine Zappone TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs along with several members of the Oireachtas attended the event to meet the providers and discuss their concerns.

With the rising cost of living in Ireland, more and more families are finding themselves in the situation where both parents need to work. This means that there is a huge calling for affordable childcare but currently not only are most families finding the costs high, they are also finding there is a lack of spaces available in many childcare facilities.

Add to this the struggle that most crèches are experiencing in being able to hire and keep on staff and it is evident that this country has a severe childcare problem.

Commenting today, Frances Byrne, Director of Policy and Advocacy with Early Childhood Ireland, said;

“Despite the incredible commitment of our members, our sector is crippled because of historical, chronic underinvestment. Due to the lack of investment over many years, our providers cannot afford to pay competitive salaries or offer job security. The result is that skilled professionals are leaving the sector in their droves. They can earn more working in their local supermarket than in their local childcare service.”

According to Early Childhood Ireland it is estimated that Ireland currently invests between 0.1% and 0.2% of GDP in the early-years sector, placing Ireland lowest among the EU28 for investment in early years. UNICEF recommends a minimum investment in early years of 1% of GDP.

The struggle to find affordable childcare is one of the main reasons many mothers are unable to return to the workplace and is an issue that I’ve come up against myself.

Many people have called for the government to invest more in childcare but as of yet very little has been done to address the issue.

Hopefully it will be factored into the upcoming budgets, helping not just those working in the sector, but parents desperately in need of childcare.