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Press release, 29/05/2016: Strong closes down after seven years campaigning for quality, affordable childcare

Smiles and coatsStart Strong, the campaigning organisation for high quality, affordable childcare, is to close down after seven years. Its work will continue however, through a newly created ‘early years’ position in the Children’s Rights Alliance.

Ms Ciairín de Buis, CEO of Start Strong said:

“Start Strong was set up as a time limited campaign. We always knew this day would come. We are very proud of the work we did helping to shape and steer early years policy so that it focusses on the best interests of our young children.”

“We campaigned especially hard around the Programme for Government. When it was eventually published, it contained many things that we had advocated including commitments to paid parental leave, a second free pre-school year, subsidised childcare with funding conditional on quality, reform of childminding and investment in quality. Of course, there is still a long way to go. We still have some of the most expensive childcare in the world, with very variable quality, but we do seem to be moving in the right direction.”

Milestones

“Looking back, a major turning point for our advocacy, was the screening of the RTE Prime Time documentary, A breach of Trust in 2013. Suddenly, everyone understood the importance of high quality care and education for our children. Before that, most people were really only concerned with how to make childcare more affordable. It’s a lesson we can’t afford to forget.”

Other milestones that the organisation sees as having been critical to its work, were the publication of the Report of the Interdepartmental Working Group (IDG): Future Investment in Childcare in Ireland in 2015 and Budget 2016.

Ms Ciairín de Buis, CEO of Start Strong said:

“The IDG report, which sets out a framework for early years policy in Ireland, thankfully has a strong focus on quality and child development outcomes as well as making childcare affordable. We particularly welcomed that it recommends income-related subsidies and rules out tax credits as the best way to bring down costs. It’s something we felt very strongly about.”

Budget 2016

The report was followed by Budget 2016, which also had many measures that Start Strong welcomed, such as the extension of provisions for free pre-school to all children from the age of 3, an additional 8,000 childcare places under the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) scheme across the country and the introduction of two weeks’ paid paternity leave as well as a commitment to a single affordable childcare scheme.

Ms de Buis added:

“What we need now is political leadership and government action, backed by public funding. We currently spend less than 0.2% GDP on early years services (the OECD average is 0.8% GDP) and unlike most European countries have no paid parental leave. The Government must spend a lot more money and make significant policy changes if they are serious about giving children a strong start in life.”

/ends/