Pobal Figures Show Early Childhood Education and Care remains a sector let down by Government
Following the publication of the Annual Early Years Sector Profile Report for 2019/2020, Labour Spokesperson on childcare and candidate in the upcoming Dublin Bay South bye-election, Senator Ivana Bacik has said that there is a clear and obvious need to move quickly towards a model of universal public childcare as costs continue to spiral in the sector. Senator Bacik called on the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration to use this report as the impetus to provide real change for children, their parents and the highly qualified staff who work in the sector for very little pay.
Senator Bacik said:
“This report will not come as a surprise to parents struggling to keep up with high fees for childcare. Unfortunately, parents have no real alternative to the private for-profit model because, despite some positive measures in the area of JLCs, the State has failed to grasp this nettle. We in Labour have proposed a new, universal public childcare model.
“The State and economy are heavily reliant on the vital work of the sector, but it is no coincidence that this undervalued workforce is 98% comprised of women. According to today’s report, it is estimated that 30,883 staff work in the sector, 85% of whom work directly with children. Early years professionals play a fundamental role in children’s early learning and development, yet their work is profoundly undervalued by the Government. While wages have increased year-on-year, the pace of growth is too slow, with the average hourly rate for staff (excluding managers) stagnating at €12.45 – merely 4% higher than in 2018/2019. I commend SIPTU’s Big Start Campaign on its stellar work organising these workers to advocate for better pay and conditions.
“Hands-off childcare policies are failing parents, staff, providers and children. Low levels of pay; lack of paid sick leave or a pay scale for professionals; precarity in the sector; and insufficient State support are not conducive to providing the high-quality early-years education that is so vital for our children’s development. Childcare should be seen as an integral part of a State-funded education service; not just a private, optional add-on for parents with higher incomes.
“With costs for parents rapidly increasing while wages for professional staff in the sector remain stagnant, there must be a public policy response. After the pandemic there must be a social recovery with real progress on building sustainable communities. A significant increase in public spending for increased provision of essential services like early childhood education and care must form part of that social recovery.”