Sinn Féin's Alternative Budget proposals would help those working in the Childcare Sector - Kathleen Funchion TD
Speaking today after Sinn Féin's Alternative Budget launch in Dublin, Sinn Féin's Spokesperson for Childcare said Sinn Féin's measures would alleviate pressures on staff in the sector.
"Our Alternative Budget lists a series of measures which would alleviate pressures not only on parents, but on those working within the sector itself.
"Childcare professionals must be supported. Without early childhood educators, there is no childcare sector. And yet, those in these crucial roles are being squeezed financially right out of their jobs. It's time to recognise the value of this work.
"Childcare professionals deserve decent pay and conditions, that reflect their work and hours. Staff who need to up-skill should be provided for adequately. We are proposing the full roll out of Síolta and Aistear, at a cost of €500,000, which is part of the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education.
"We would also extend the Learner Fund to Support Progression to Level 7 and 8 Qualifications at a Cost €1.5 million.
"Based on existing take-up rates, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform estimates that an additional €1.5m in the learner fund for 2017 would allow the majority of existing childcare professionals seeking to progress to a higher level qualification to be facilitated.
"Currently, the capitation grant is linked to third level qualification, creating a financial incentive to take on graduates. Staff should not be expected to pay for these qualifications out of their own pockets while on minimum wage pay. It's unfair and does not reflect the value of their work or commitment.
"Our proposal to increase the capitation grant (by €9 from €64.50 to €70.50 for the higher rate, and by €6 from €75 to €84 for the lower rate, at a cost of €30.25m) would help service providers meet their running costs and increase staff wages.
"As it stands, most staff are forced to sign onto the dole over summer months as the current ECCE scheme only covers a 38 week period. We would extend this to 43 weeks to assist financial pressures of staff as well as parents. Many service providers operate at a loss, with many owner-managers taking no salary during the summer months.
"Sinn Féin would extend the ECCE Scheme to 43 Weeks as an initial measure at a cost of €44 million. This would be a first step towards improving alleviating some of the financial strain on staff, childcare providers and parents.
"Universal quality childcare will only become a reality for more parents when those working in the sector are supported, valued and encouraged to remain working in it. Unless working conditions improve, the crisis in quality will remain. Staff must be supported if the sector is to survive and thrive."