International evidence indicates that there is a return of up to 16:1 for investment in early care and education. This means that every euro spent by the government on early care and education, is worth as much as €16 in the long-term. Less than a week before the budget, this is a figure worth remembering.
This budget provides the opportunity for the government to prioritise what is important in Ireland. And investing in young kids should be the most important. NESC describe early care and education as “a good long-term investment for the state and a sound basis for the move towards a knowledge-based economy.” (Well-being Matters: a Social Report for Ireland, 2009: vol 1, 160) Substantial cuts have already been made in early years expenditure – we can’t afford more cuts, we need to sustain the progress we have already made and then build on it.
High quality care and education in their early years allows children to start strong, giving them the solid foundations upon which they can build their lives. If we do not give young children the care, support and opportunities they need, we are wasting the chance to lay those solid foundations. Children do not have a second chance.
Quality early care and education should be a right for all children. But if that argument doesn’t sway the Minister, surely the numbers should?