Published date:11 Jan 2010
**PRESS STATEMENT** Monday 11 January 2010
In Response to Minister Andrews’ Extension of the Registration Period to the Free Pre-School Scheme
By Jillian van Turnhout, Children’s Rights Alliance
“The Children’s Rights Alliance welcomes the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Barry Andrews TD’s decision today to extend the registration period for the free pre-school scheme to 29 January. However, we are concerned that a significant number of parents remain confused in relation to their child’s eligibility and whether the scheme will continue to exist over the coming years.
We continue to receive queries from parents, with more coming in today, unable to decipher the scheme’s details. To clarify, children born from 2 February 2005 to 30 June 2006 will qualify this year. Children born between 2 February 2006 and 30 June 2007 will qualify for the free preschool year in September 2010. This is an excellent scheme, which supports early childhood development, and we would encourage parents to register. Parents can find more details by contacting their local Childcare Committee or by calling Alliance member organisation, the National Children’s Nurseries Association, on 01 460 1138 or going to www.ncna.net.
Worryingly, the very low levels of uptake for the scheme in some areas seem to suggest that many parents are unaware of its existence or confused by the process. While we acknowledge that the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has issued a letter to each eligible family, more needs to be done in raising awareness of the scheme and to provide a further extension to parents. This is a new initiative and therefore requires special attention from civil servants.
It is a matter of record that the Alliance has warmly welcomed the free pre-school year, as it demonstrates a progressive policy shift. But the pre-school year must be seen as the first in a series of steps to develop early childhood education and care services for all children in Ireland. And these first, vital steps must be implemented effectively. Giving parents enough time to register is one way of ensuring that this scheme is a success.
Money invested early has consistently been shown to reap both economic and social benefits in the longer term. A NESF cost-benefit analysis in 2005 showed that for every €1 invested in ECCE in Ireland, a return of up to €7.10 could be expected. The Alliance now asks Government to make the aspiration a reality, through effective implementation.”
Jillian van Turnhout