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Childcare - time to act is now - Ó Caoláin

27 September, 2005

Government must act on NESF Early Childhood

Care and Education Report

Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD has welcomed the National Economic and Social Forum Report on Early Childhood Care and Education. Describing it as a "landmark report" Ó Caoláin urged the Government to act on it in the forthcoming Budget and to fully implement its recommendations.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"The National Economic and Social Forum has clearly identified the massive deficit in the provision of early childhood care and education in this State. Despite the economic boom the Government has failed to ensure adequate care and education for the 10% of the population under six years of age.

"In its landmark report the NESF has set out a clear programme to provide universal access for all children to early childhood care and education. This includes support for children and parents in the home, in childcare facilities and in primary schools.

"Many of the NESF recommendations were also made by Sinn Féin in our document 'Putting Children First' in advance of the 2005 Budget. The Budget failed miserably to address the needs of children and this makes it all the more urgent for the Government to act now, in time for Budget 2006.

"Sinn Fein welcomes in particular the NESF proposals for:

Universal access to early childhood care and education.

Ongoing quality development in policy, infrastructure and service provision.

Increase of paid maternity leave to 26 weeks.

State-funded high quality early childhood care and education session of 3.5 hours per day, five days a week for all children in the year before they go to school.

Child and Family Centres at local level to provide integrated services to disadvantaged children and their parents.

Responsibility for early childhood care and education to reside in one Government Department.

"Very importantly, the NESF provides a cost-benefit analysis that shows that for every euro invested in early childhood care and education a return of €7.10 can be expected. This answered those who have criticised the proposals of those in the childcare sector, and of Sinn Féin, as being beyond the means of our economy.

"This Report must not be allowed to gather dust on a shelf as the Government has done with previous key NESF recommendations. It now provides a focus for all those campaigning for the rights of children." ENDS

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