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Kathleen Funchion TD welcomes passing of Sinn Féin motion seeking to support early years childcare staff

5 July, 2017 - by Kathleen Funchion TD

Speaking in the wake of Sinn Féin's PMB motion on the poor working conditions and pay for those in the Early Years childcare sector Sinn Féin's Spokesperson on Childcare Kathleen Funchion TD has welcomed the unanimous passing of the Sinn Féin motion seeking to support early years childcare staff.

peaking tonight, Teachta Funchion said:

"I welcome the unanimous support for our motion tonight. This will pave the way for better working conditions and pay for staff that are facing uncertantly and providers that were at breaking point now entering the summer months.

"This summer approximately 3,500 early years educators will sign on the dole at an estimated cost of €7.5 million to the exchequer. This does not include the thousands of providers who are unable to sign on because they are classified as self-employed.

"Nor does it include the younger members of the profession who are not entitled to social welfare at all due to their parents’ income. These figures also don't include those who are eligible for FIS because their income is so low.

"Attracting and retaining a professional workforce are vital if these relationships are to flourish and this cannot be achieved if government investment is so low that the workforce is on little more than minimum wage.

"National and international evidence shows that high quality early childhood education and care has positive outcomes for children and for society. These outcomes are even stronger for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. However, these benefits are reliant on high quality provision.

"Early Years settings are often where learning difficulties or social issues can be detected, improving a child’s chances of getting help and assessing the level of assistance they might need early on in order to prevent future problems, developmental or otherwise.

"The type of start we give our children inevitably impacts their progress for life.There’s an intrinsic link between the working conditions of those responsible for children and the quality of care and outcomes.

"It is common sense that if a staff member is over-worked, underpaid and highly stressed, as a committed as that staff member may be, the outcomes for the children they care for will not be as positive as a person who feels valued, has relative job security and happy in their position.

"The most recent information from the Department for Children and Youth Affairs shows the costs for the proposed Affordable Childcare Scheme include wages for qualified, experienced early years educators at €10.79 over 48 weeks.

"Now that the scheme will be over 52 weeks this figure is even lower. The scheme also recommends that 'efficiency can be achieved through managing staff resources to match staff on duty to the varying numbers of children at different times of the day and different times of the year'.

"This demonstrates that government policy is committed to exploiting the early years workforce with not much regard to staff deserving a living wage or regular hours of work.  This must be reassessed immediately.

"At the moment services are struggling with an IT system that is not fit for purpose, dates promised for the payment of non contact time not met, and grants not approved in the time frame promised.

"There is so far, no payment for all the extra administration required for delivering the new schemes. This is seriously frustrating service providers and is creating a pressure cooker ready to explode.

"We are spending little more than 0.1% on early years services in this State. We are at the very bottom on the OECD table in relation to expenditure on early childhood educational institutions. This results in significantly raised costs for parents, unsustainable services and poor pay and conditions for the early years workforce.
"More and more is required of the workforce in terms of regulation, qualification, training, interactions with parents and external agencies. Interactions with children are being hampered as the professionals working with the children are torn between meeting all the requirements that rain down on them.

"Unless the conditions and pay of those working are improved this crisis is only going to deepen. The State now needs to act on tonight's unanimous agreement and increase funding to services, which is tied to quality and the implementation of decent paycales.

"We must address the issues now so that we can create a sustainable sector that is fair for workers and the children they care for. Improvements will only happen with significant investment for the sector in Budget 2018.


PMB wording:
That Dáil Éireann
Notes that:

· there are approximately 4,300 services providing early childhood education and care with an estimated  22,000 staff working in the sector;
· thousands of early years staff will be forced to sign onto social welfare in the coming weeks for the duration of the summer due to 38 week work contracts and also as a result of reduced hours of work;
· most parents choose to remove their children from centres over summer months as a result of the high cost of full day care, which results in services having to reduce working hours;
· wages within the early years sector often do not reflect staff qualifications and experience;
· the average wage for the profession is significantly below living wage and that the CoRe Report (2011) recommends a graduate led early years workforce yet this recommendation cannot be fulfilled if graduates are not retained working in the sector;
· national and international evidence suggests that high quality early childhood education and care is beneficial for young children at the foundation stage of their development and that the provision of high quality early education and care is dependent on quality interactions between early years staff and the children they engage with, therefore, the immediate improvement of working conditions and salaries of those working in the sector is essential for quality improvement;
· community and private services are currently experiencing recruitment and retention difficulties due to insufficient funding available to pay staff a wage that is commensurate with their role and ever increasing responsibilities which results in a high staff turnover rate and 'burnout' of workers;
· this crisis is creating wider sustainability issues for the sector, resulting in risk of closure to smaller crèches, particularly community crèches nationwide, which will inevitably reduce access to childcare options for parents while putting staff under increased work pressures;
· that Ireland spends significantly less on early years education at .5% of GDP versus the OECD average of .7% and even less than the  international benchmark of 1%;
Calls on Government to:
- recognise the early years sectors’ valuable contribution to Irish society of educating and caring for the youngest of Irish citizens and treat the early years education sector so that it is on a par to other levels of education;
- ensure the needs of the early years workforce are central to all policy development and investment in order to achieve high quality early years education and care services;
- carry out as a matter of urgency, an independent early years service cost and sustainability review encompassing the identification and assessment of stress factors impacting on the early childhood services, distinguishing between the cost of providing an 0-3 service, a pre-school service and an afterschool service in order to provide an accurate calculation of finances needed for the provision of high quality accessible education and care in both rural and urban areas;
- increase state funding to European levels  - to ensure sustainable high quality provision, professional pay scales and paid non- contact time;
- commission the development of a nationally agreed pay scale for the early years workforce that recognises qualifications, experience and length of service using the living wage  as a starting point and to ensure higher capitation rates are passed on to staff through an agreed salary scale that reflects qualifications and experience;
-  immediately address the issue of extra administrative requirement which will be added to providers' already extensive workload due to the extension to the affordable childcare scheme and ensure that both service providers and staff are remunerated for this additional work in adequate time for the implementation of the Department's new scheme;
- build paid non-contact time and continuing professional development into the level of capitation provided so that early years staff can plan, document and deliver a high quality programme;
- prioritise work on the Early Years Strategy to avoid further fragmentation of the sector and consult widely with the sector in order to sufficiently inform this work.

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