The Government should allocate an extra €125 million in next year’s Budget, and at least €625 million extra over the next five years, to ensure that Ireland meets the OECD average spend on early childhood care and education by 2022, according to IMPACT.
In the union’s costed pre-Budget submission launched today (Tuesday) by Barnardos Ireland Chief Executive Fergus Finlay, IMPACT said two months’ paid parental leave for one parent should also be introduced next year, at an extra cost of €84 million. And it called for fees paid by parents to be capped as a condition of public funding of early childhood providers in future.
The union says Government spending of just 0.1% of GDP on early childhood education puts Ireland at the bottom of the OECD league table. “This lack of significant investment has resulted in high costs to parents and low wages for workers. Irish parents pay some of the highest childcare costs in the world, while most of those working within early education don’t even earn a living wage,” it says.
The EarlyIMPACT pre-Budget submission also demands:
- That Ireland meets the UNICEF early childhood spending target of 1% of GNP within ten years
- The implementation of a Programme for Government commitment to review the early care inspection regime, and withdraw funding from providers who fail to meet standards
- The immediate implementation of a Budget 2016 commitment to a quality audit of early years’ education services
- The negotiation and implementation of agreed salary scales for early years’ staff to boost professionalisation of the sector.
Barnardos CEO Fergus Finlay said: “Having access to quality early years services can make a world of difference to a child’s life, offering the best start possible. It reaps benefits for the child, society and the exchequer, ensuring that every child can reach their potential. It’s important that Budget 2018 commits to investing in early childhood care and education – supporting the improvement of quality and access of services.”
IMPACT official Lisa Connell said international research had demonstrated a clear link between salaries and the quality of early education experienced by children. But Irish workers generally experience low pay and poor working conditions in the sector.
“Average pay in the sector currently stands at €10.27 an hour, with a €1 premium for graduates. It is inevitable that some children experience poor quality early education when the services are provided by poorly qualified and poorly paid staff. Budget 2018 can start to change that by signalling the necessary move towards a graduate-led workforce with payment of an agreed salary scale as a condition of public funding,” she said.
IMPACT says simply providing higher capitation for higher qualifications isn’t the solution to low pay as there is no guarantee that higher capitation fees would be passed on in wages.
IMPACT deputy general secretary Kevin Callinan said the Government should eliminate the special VAT rate for the hospitality sector and invest it in early education. “If the Government took this step we’d start to come nearer to the amount of investment you’d expect in a modern economy but even then we’d still be well short of the OECD recommended level,” he said.
Download a copy of the pre-budget submission HERE.