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Press Statement, 22/01/2016: Childcare plans by Social Democrats in right direction, but ambitious action required

Start Strong – a coalition group campaigning to improve government policy on early years in Ireland – has responded to announcements of new childcare proposals by the Social Democrats today.

Director of Start Strong, Ms Ciairín de Buis, has welcomed the proposals laid out in the Social Democrats’ manifesto as a step in the right direction when it comes to putting our young children first in their early years care and education. However, she warned that such ambitious plans must be followed through with even more ambitious action if the party forms part of the next government.

Social DemocratsMs de Buis said:

“Early years care and education in Ireland is suffering a crisis of quality, affordability and accessibility. For the next government to truly address childcare, they must tackle each of these three areas.”

“We are pleased to see that the measures outlined in the Social Democrats’ manifesto are focussed on making sure all young children can access high quality childcare that parents can afford. Only then can the State hold its head up high when it comes to providing the best possible start in life for all young children in Ireland.”

“The Social Democrats realise that parents should be able to afford to stay at home to care for their children for at least the first year of life. Research shows that children do best when cared for in this environment for those critical 12 months. We therefore welcome proposals to increase paid parental leave to 12 months over the lifetime of the next government.”

“We are pleased to see the Social Democrats’ call for the setting of maximum fees for parents, investing in educational supports for childcare workers and extending subsidised childcare places to lower-income families.”

“Indeed, their proposals include measures which Start Strong has long campaigned for. The fact that the party’s proposals address affordability through direct subsidies rather than tax credits is also significant. Introducing tax credits for parents would be a simplistic move that would have zero effect on the quality of care our young children would receive. Tax credits are also unlikely to have any real long-term impact on costs and could, in fact, drive costs to parents up further.”

Ms de Buis added:

“However, ambitious plans like these come at a cost. Currently Ireland, at 0.2% GDP, lags far behind the OECD average (0.8%), when it comes to investing in early years. The next government must be prepared to invest €1 billion per year in early years care and education if we are to see an early years sector that we can be proud of.”

“Now that they have laid out their proposals, we call on all Social Democrats election candidates (as well as all other candidates) to sign our Early Years #GE16 Promise to Children, 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.