Trade unions have welcomed the announcement of planned new measures, which would see the childcare sector receive increased public funding along with other reforms. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) hailed the package as an important step towards a public universal scheme for early years’ education and care.
The package, outlined by children’s minister Roderic O’Gorman earlier this week, heralds a shift towards publicly-funded and managed services through a partnership between the State and providers.
He said its new funding model would deliver high quality childcare with improved affordability for parents and better pay and conditions for staff. He also claimed it would lead to better management of supply to meet demand.
The plan offers crèches permanent core State funding of over €200 million a year from 2023, provided the fees that parents pay are frozen.
The reforms are on foot of an expert group report, Partnership for the Public Good, which recommends this additional funding stream for the sector to support quality, improved pay and a lower cost to parents.
The new funding model is to be available to voluntary providers, sole traders and for-profit chains that deliver early learning and care or school-age childcare. But the provision of funding hinges on the promise by childcare providers to freeze their fees.
The funding model will also support the establishment of an ‘employment regulation order’ to underpin pay and conditions in the sector. ICTU welcomed this.
“The completion of the joint labour committee for early years’ services will support service providers to meet the higher costs arising from pay increases and from staff participation in training and professional development activities, without raising fees for parents,” it said.
ICTU said the workforce in the sector was “widely recognised as the major factor in determining children’s experiences and their outcomes, but the sector has been characterised by low pay and high turnover.”
Further engagement between ICTU representatives and departmental officials through future meetings of the Early Learning and Childcare Stakeholder Forum and the Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF) early years subgroup is expected.
Minister O’Gorman said the expert group report clearly and unequivocally recognised the public good dimension of early learning and care and school-age childcare. “These are crucial services and the State has a strong interest in ensuring they are high quality, affordable, inclusive and sustainable,” he said.
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