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Press release, 16/01/2012: National Children's Strategy a 'Golden Opportunity' in 2012

News release: Issued by Start Strong

Sunday January 15, 2012.

National Children's Strategy a 'Golden Opportunity' in 2012

Stronger early years education and care will save money and bring benefits to society

The National Children's Strategy - which is being developed during 2012 - provides a 'golden opportunity' to save the State money and bring massive benefits for children and society, according to Start Strong.

In a New Year's message to Oireachtas members Start Strong Director, Ciairín de Buis, said there is a rapidly growing body of evidence which shows that providing high quality early years (years 0-6) interventions and supports saves countries very significant social care costs in the long term.

Highlighting Start Strong's latest research document The Economics of Children's Early Years Ms. de Buis highlighted the need to take a long term view in order to recognise these benefits. (Full report at )

"While there are immediate costs in delivering high quality care and education services and supports for all young children, the benefits transform children's life chances as they grow older. In planning for the future the National Children's Strategy, which is being developed this year, the State must plan for increasing the emphasis on years 0-6 to reap in the longer term these social and economic benefits," she said.

The report cites international evidence which shows that the greatest returns on investment in education and development is in the years 0-5. However, 20% of public spending on children and families is on ages 0-5, while 37% is on 6-11 and 44% on 12-17 year olds.

The report highlighted that:

• Good early care and education aid children's employability in later life.

• Early years interventions reduce social and criminal problems in society.

• The quality of staff and the training they receive is critical for effectiveness.

• Children in all social groups benefit from high quality services and supports.

The research includes an analysis of the situation in Ireland by Goodbody Economic Consultants which stated that greater emphasis on early years care and education makes strong economic sense.

'Even with conservative assumptions about the transferability of research from the USA to Ireland, it is reasonable to conclude that proposals for professionalising the workforce and extending pre-school provision would result in benefits that readily exceed the rate of return required by the Department of Finance in project or programme evaluations. Less cautious assumptions would result in estimates of benefits that far outweigh the costs.'

Previous cost-benefit analysis of early care and education in Ireland carried out by the Geary Institute estimated the benefits to be €7 for every €1 invested.

In conclusion Ms. de Buis said that: "The common theme across all the cost benefit analyses, regardless of assumptions, methodologies or settings is that investing in the children's early years makes sound economic sense.

"Start Strong is calling on politicians to support stronger policy and services in early years care and education - and the National Children's Strategy provides the opportunity to do this."

The research and evidence is available for download at .

Further Information:

Ronan Cavanagh, Montague Communications, (086) 317 9731.

Start Strong

Start Strong is a coalition of organisations and individuals seeking to advance early care and education in Ireland. It is supported by the Katharine Howard Foundation, the Irish Youth Foundation and The Atlantic Philanthropies.