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Press Statement, 10/02/2016: Labour’s ‘€2 per hour’ childcare plans can deliver quality, affordability and accessibility in early years – but real action must follow ambitious ideas

Start Strong – a coalition group campaigning to improve government policy on early years in Ireland – has responded this morning to the publication of the Labour Party’s election proposals on childcare and family leave.

CEO of Start Strong, Ms Ciairín de Buis, welcomed the substantive detail of Labour’s ‘Standing Up For Families’ document, saying that if implemented, it would finally begin to address the crisis of early years care that is unaffordable to many families and without a guarantee of quality.

LabourMs de Buis said:

“Young children in Ireland deserve the best possible start in life, and providing an environment for high quality childcare that is affordable for families and accessible to all is the least our Government should do to ensure this happens.

“We are pleased to see the Labour Party address the key areas of quality, affordability and accessibility in their childcare plans.

“Steps such as reducing childcare costs by subsidising services, and funding the payment of professional salaries to staff, may seem like large investments. In reality, however, Ireland, at 0.2% GDP, is currently well below the OECD average (0.8%), when it comes to investing in early years. If implemented, the measures outlined by Labour today will bring us closer to that OECD average, but even more should be invested to meet international standards.

“We would welcome the linking of state subsidies for childcare services to quality, placing a cap on fees to parents, regulating childminders, the target of a 60% graduate childcare workforce, and reforming our current inspection system, as Labour outlines.

“However, we are disappointed to see a lack of ambition when it comes to paid family leave. Ten years is too long for families to wait for 12 months’ paid parental leave to come into effect. We urge Labour to rethink this projection, and call on them to commit to achieving this goal within the lifetime of the next Government, should the party form part of the next Coalition.”

But Ms de Buis added:

“Overall, promises like these are welcome, but they will come to nothing if they are not followed through with action. Research has shown the long-term social and economic benefits that quality early years care and education can provide. Whoever is in Government needs to see the long-term benefits of investing in early years.

“Now that it has laid out its proposals, we call on Labour election candidates (as well as all other candidates) to sign our Early Years #GE16 Promise to Children on earlyyears.ie, which includes a commitment to make early years a priority if elected by increasing investment to ensure affordable, accessible, quality early years services and by continuing to strengthen family leave.”

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

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: startstrong.ie.

Read the Early Years Promise to Children.