Republic of Ireland Children’s Minister aims to substantially reduce childcare fees for parents
Irish Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman has launched a new funding model – Together for Better – as part of ongoing work to transform the childcare sector in Ireland. It is designed to benefit children, parents and those working in the sector by improving the quality and affordability of childcare, enhancing pay and conditions for workers and supporting sustainability for providers. The Government has pledged to invest at least €1 billion in the childcare sector by 2028.
Together for Better incorporates three major elements:
- The Early Childhood Care and Education Programme
- The National Childcare Scheme and
- Core Funding.
Together for Better was launched as the Core Funding scheme came into operation, a scheme that 90% of eligible childcare services have now signed up to. As part of this scheme, providers receive a Core Funding subsidy that requires them to freeze fees for parents at their September 2021 level, and to agree to minimum rates of pay for staff, resulting in a pay increase for approximately 70% of those working in the sector.
It has also been reported that Minister O’Gorman is pushing for increased funding for his Department to uplift National Childcare Scheme subsidies that would reduce fees for parents, aiming for a 50% reduction in average childcare fees across the next two Budgets.
Plans welcomed by the childcare sector
SIPTU, the union for early years educators and managers, has welcomed the new pay deal for those working in childcare, as part of the Core Funding scheme.
Early Childhood Ireland referred to a “milestone week” in which Core Funding and the sector’s first ever pay scale were launched, alongside the announcement of Together for Better, which will be “critical to delivering further investment”.
Importantly, however, there is a call for funding to be confirmed at the upcoming Budget 2023.
Important learning to support the development of a new Childcare Strategy for Northern Ireland
There is important learning here for Northern Ireland as we look to the development of a new integrated Early Learning and Childcare Strategy. The new Strategy must be ambitious in seeking to support the entire sector here to be more sustainable, the workforce to receive better pay and recognition, keeping a focus on quality early education and care outcomes for children, and in addressing the affordability of childcare for parents of children of all ages.