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Press release, 20/01/2016: Early Years #GE16 Campaign calls for Candidates to make a Promise to Children

Early Years: Affordable, Quality, Accessible

Start Strong has called on all General Election candidates to make a promise to children to make childcare and family leave key campaign priorities.

The Early Years #GE16 Promise to Children calls on all General Election candidates to pledge to significantly increase investment to ensure affordable, quality and accessible childcare, and to continue to strengthen family leave.

Early Years Photocall Launch WalkAt the campaign’s launch this morning, all candidates were invited to sign up to the promise, which addresses the three crises in Ireland’s early years sector:

  •  Affordability: Develop subsidised quality childcare – a childcare subsidy is far more effective at addressing quality and childcare cost for parents than tax credits. Introduce six months paid parental leave allowing children to be cared for at home for the critical first year of life.
  • Quality: No child should be in a poor quality service. We call on candidates to commit to linking public investment to quality as well and to introduce the regulation of childminders.
  •  Accessibility: Ensure sufficient subsidised places across the country, and make sure no young child is left behind by providing the supports required for the care of all children with additional needs.

Today’s launch also heard from key voices in the business and trade union sector, as well as representatives from the main political parties in how they plan to address childcare and family leave in their election campaigns.

Speaking at today’s launch, Director of Start Strong Ms Ciairín de Buis said:

“For too long our nation’s young children have been short-changed. Our family leave policy is far behind our European neighbours, and our childcare is too expensive without any guarantee of quality. It’s time we started taking early years seriously.

“Our Promise to Children provides solutions to Ireland’s early years crises in a way that focusses on what is best for young children. A plethora of evidence points to the long-term benefits that quality early years care and education can have, but it also shows how low quality care can in fact harm a child’s development. RTÉ’s ‘A Breach of Trust’ documentary highlighted such inadequacies in Irish childcare, and yet the State has been sorely lacking in its actions to address this crisis. The next Government must act decisively to ensure quality, affordability and accessibility early years in order to give our young children the start in life that they deserve.

“Throughout this General Election campaign, Start Strong will be advocating the best interests of the country’s young children. Our proposals call for the next Government to significantly up its game – we need to be spending at least an extra €1 billion every year on early years in Ireland in order for us to reach the OECD average investment of 0.8% GDP (Currently Ireland trails at less than 0.2% GDP in this area).”

Also addressing the launch, Mark O’Mahoney, Director of Policy and Communications at Chambers Ireland, commented:

“As Ireland’s largest business network, Chambers Ireland recognises that access to affordable, high-quality childcare has long been a problem for both parents and employers here. Until we re-think our approach to childcare services our businesses will continue to lose talented employees, parents will be forced out of work, and Government will lose out on potential additional taxation revenue.

“Investing in young children will reap huge economic benefits – not just through long-term improvements in education and career outcomes which quality care can provide to children – but also in the short term. Currently Ireland is suffering an extraordinary loss in skills and talent because half of all of women with two or more children do not re-enter the workforce. Affordable, quality and accessible childcare will free up parents to return to work, improving the skills of our workforce and allowing Ireland to better compete.”

Addressing launch event delegates, David Joyce, Equality Officer, Irish Congress of Trade Unions, added:

“Working families are under serious pressure and this is made all the worse by the lack of workplace arrangements to help reconcile work and family life. Research shows that workers (both women and men) who experience such a conflict have a significantly lower quality of life, run a higher risk of health problems and are less productive.

 “Family Leave and childcare measures that are high quality, affordable and accessible to all would take huge pressures off these families. The case for affordable, quality childcare is overwhelming – in terms of economics and equality. If we want a productive economy and a more equal society, this would be a significant move in the right direction.”

Early Years Twitter banner#EarlyYears #GE16 | Follow us on Twitter @StartStrongIrl | Like us on Facebook facebook.com/StartStrongIreland.

About Start Strong

  •  Start Strong is a coalition of organisations and individuals seeking to advance children’s early care and education in Ireland.
  • Early Years care and education means the care and education of children in their early years, from their first months to the compulsory school starting age of 6 years old.
  •  For more information on our Early Years #GE16 Campaign, follow #EarlyYears #GE16 on social media and visit our website: www.startstrong.ie.
  • Read the Early Years Promise to Children.

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