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Press release, 25/07/2013: Pre Budget Submission 2014

START STRONG CALLS FOR BUDGET 2014 TO BE FIRST STEP IN INCREASING INVESTMENT IN EARLY CARE AND EDUCATION TO 1% OF GDP

Budget measures must address deficiencies highlighted in RTE Prime Time investigation A Breach of Trust.
Children in or ‘at risk’ of poverty should not be negatively impacted by Budget 2014.

Start Strong – a coalition of organisations and individuals seeking to advance children’s early care and education in Ireland – today called on the government to increase investment in early years’ services and supports in Budget 2014.

Start Strong’s Acting Director, Toby Wolfe, said: “While we acknowledge that the government must make a difficult adjustment to the public finances in Budget 2014, there are choices. This year must be the first in a series of progressive budgets for children. Currently we are far behind international standards in terms of our spending on early care and education. The Government must begin in this Budget to move towards investing 1% of GDP in early care and education”.

Mr Wolfe continued, “Later this year the Government has promised a National Early Years Strategy which will set out plans for improving services and supports for young children and their families over the next five-to-ten years. If this Strategy is to be effective, it must be supported by a rising level of investment and this must start on October 15th when the Minister for Finance announces Budget 2014”.

In addition to calling for increased investment, Start Strong is also calling on the government to address the deficiencies highlighted in the RTE Prime Time investigation, A Breach of Trust.

Toby Wolfe said: “The abusive way children were treated in the crèches shown in the RTE Prime Time investigation was deeply distressing. Lying behind the programme are systemic problems with our inspection system as well as low wages and poor working conditions for those working in the sector and low levels of qualifications and training”. 

In order to address these issues Start Strong is calling for the introduction of a number of investment programmes to address quality including:
• A training fund to upskill staff working in services;
• Funding for the national roll-out of the Síolta quality framework and Aistear curriculum framework;
• A closer link between public funding and the achievement of quality standards;
• Additional resources for the Pre-School Inspectorate.

Finally, Start Strong is saying that Budget 2014 must ensure that there are no further negative impacts on the lives of 190,000 children ‘at risk’ of poverty in Ireland. To this end the Government must:
• Protect low-income households in any reform of Child Benefit, and make no flat rate cut;
• Make no further cuts to childcare supports for low-income families;
• Continue to support prevention and early intervention measures which are proven to lead to long-term savings including adequate funding for the new Child and Family Agency.

Mr Wolfe concluded, “Now more than ever we must prioritise young children and their families in Budget decisions in order to positively shape the future of our children’s lives, our society and our economy”.

For more details read our Pre-Budget Submission 2014

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