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Press Statement, 14/02/2016: Fine Gael’s GE16 childcare policy on right track, but light on detail

Start Strong – a coalition group campaigning to improve government policy on early years in Ireland – has responded to the launch this morning of Fine Gael’s election manifesto childcare proposals, stating that, while in the right direction, its policies are light on detail and ambition.

CEO of Start Strong, Ms Ciairín de Buis, described the party’s policies in childcare as a positive step, but one that is light on detail.

Fine GaelMs de Buis said:

“Young children in Ireland deserve the best possible start in life, paid parental leave and providing an environment for high quality childcare that is affordable for all families is the least the next Government should do.

“The proposals outlined in Fine Gael’s manifesto and their early years plan are generally positive, but light on detail and ambition. Subsidising childcare places, and tying that funding to quality, is the best route to make childcare both affordable and high quality, as OECD research has shown. Fine Gael have committed to subsidising childcare places, but it’s not at all clear whether they are linking that funding to quality.

“Furthermore, while welcoming any increase in paid family leave, Fine Gael’s plan to introduce eight weeks’ parental leave by 2021 falls far short of international standards. Just last year the Interdepartmental Working Group (IDG) set up by Fine Gael TD and Children’s Minister James Reilly to report on the future investment in childcare recommended ‘one year of paid parental leave for children under one.’

“Research shows that children do best when cared for at home by their parents for at least the critical first year of life, which means 6-months paid parental leave should follow the existing paid maternity leave. However, Fine Gael’s proposals only allow for eight weeks paid parental leave. Clearly, this is not enough.”

Ms de Buis added:

“Overall, what is particularly disappointing is that, through the IDG’s report, Fine Gael already has a detailed blueprint for early years that is affordable, accessible, and of high quality for all, but instead of implementing its proposals fully, the party appears to be taking baby steps. The next Government must be more ambitious.

“We know that ambitious plans come at a cost, a cost that other countries meet. Currently Ireland, at less than 0.2% GDP, lags far behind the OECD average (0.8%), when it comes to investing in early years. If in the next government, Fine Gael must be prepared to invest €1 billion per year in early years care and education if we are to see an the type of early years policies that our children deserve.

“Now that it has laid out its proposals, we call on Fine Gael 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.