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Press Release, 10/3/2016: Call for early years to be ‘top’ priority in new Programme for Government

 Children playing in a pre schoolStart Strong – a coalition group campaigning to improve government policy on early years in Ireland – is calling for early years to be a top priority in the new Programme for Government.

Ciairín de Buis, Chief Executive of Start Strong, said:

“All political parties made election promises on paid leave and childcare. It’s now time to act. With the Dáil returning today and the political parties manoeuvring for government, we need to focus on what the next government can achieve, not who is in it.

 “The lack of affordable, high quality childcare was a huge issue on the doorsteps during the election. Families here pay some of the highest costs in the world for childcare but without any guarantee of quality. We also have some of the shortest paid leave available to parents. The next Government, whoever it may be, needs to make early years a priority.”

 Just today the EU Commission held a briefing on their Country Report for Ireland – in which concerns about the affordability and quality of childcare are highlighted. We know what needs to be done, now we need a government to do it.

 Investment

“We need to significantly increase investment in early years services and we need to link that increased funding to quality as well as placing a cap on fees for parents. If we did this, parents could afford to work, knowing their child will be well cared for.”

 Currently Ireland, at less than 0.2% GDP, lags far behind the OECD average (0.8%), when it comes to investing in early years.

 Programme for Government

Start Strong has written to all the newly elected TDs asking them to make early years a key part of the Programme for Government.

 The coalition group has developed and costed a set of proposed policy changes on childcare and paid parental leave that if implemented would make a real difference to families across Ireland.

 Policy

 The proposals include;

  •  Increasing investment in early years services, linking funding to quality improvements.
  • Extending subsidised quality childcare places and capping fees, to make high quality childcare affordable.
  • Introducing paid parental leave, to achieve at least 1 year of total paid leave for parents.
  • Regulating and supporting paid childminders, opening up public funding schemes to them.

“Sustained investment in early years will be crucial in the next Government term to ensure the State provides the best possible start for all our young children and better support for families .” said Ms De Buis.

ENDS