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Press Release, 13/10/2016: Budget 2016 takes steps in the right direction for Ireland's young children

Start Strong – a coalition of organisations and individuals seeking to advance children’s early care and education in Ireland – have welcomed today’s Budget announcement as a big step in the right direction for children’s early years in Ireland.

Measures such as the extension of provisions for free pre-school to all children from the age of 3, an additional 8,000 childcare places under the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) scheme across the country and the introduction of two weeks’ paid paternity leave pave the foundations for a long-term vision of early years that is affordable, high quality, and in the best interests of our young children.

Start Strong Director, Ms Ciairín de Buis, added that sustained investment in these early years will be crucial in the next Government term to ensure the State provides the best possible start for all our young children.

“Budget 2016 shows the Government taking positive steps to address the three linked crises affecting early years – affordability, quality and investment. The immediate expansion of CCS, thereby making subsidised childcare places available to more low-income families no matter where they live in the country, will make a huge difference to those households who have been struggling with the costs of raising children and can now access subsidised childcare. However, it is only 8,000 places - a lot more are needed.”

“Providing free pre-school from the age of 3 and allowing for multiple points at which children can enrol will potentially have significant benefits for early years development. Research has repeatedly shown that high quality early education from the age of 3 has benefits for children's learning that last into adulthood. Because of the September start date, currently the average age at which children begin the free school year is 3 years, 10 months. Allowing more entry points will reduce this by several months."

"Two weeks paid paternity leave recognises the role of fathers in their young child's life."

“However, while welcome, it needs to be stressed that these measures represent just the first steps towards a more affordable and quality structure of early education for young children in Ireland. Continued investment will be required in the coming years to enhance paid family leave to 52 weeks and to improve childcare quality standards while making it more affordable to parents."