Welcome to issue 3 of the Children's Rights Alliance's Early Years newsletter.
As Government Departments begin to finalise Budget 2018, we are working hard to ensure that children are at the forefront of Ministers’ and civil servants’ minds. Budget 2017 sought to balance the high cost of childcare to parents through the Affordable Childcare Scheme: Budget 2018 should prioritise investment in quality improvement in services.
Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures, Ireland’s national children’s strategy, and A Programme for A Partnership Government both commit to ensuring that the services for young children and their parents are of high-quality. We know that high-quality services support children to learn and develop, and poor quality services can damage them. We can’t afford not to invest in quality.
Ireland only invests one-eighth of what other EU countries and OECD countries do to Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC). Through Budget 2018 we need to radically increase the level of public money allocated to measures that directly impact on the quality of children’s learning experiences, such as subsidising ‘non-contact’ time. That is the working time that Early Years Educators use to plan, document and evaluate children’s learning. This time and these activities are central to the quality practice and services underpinning Aistear and Síolta, our national early years curriculum and quality standards.
Budget 2017 was groundbreaking in, for the first time, allocating public funds to non-contact time for the administrative work that services undertake to run national ECEC funding schemes. Let’s use public monies wisely and strategically in Budget 2018 and build on this emerging foundation for quality ECEC.
Children's Rights Alliance
Annual Conference: Political Panel Discussion on Early Years
The Children’s Rights Alliance convened a lively political panel discussion on 9 May at our AGM to debate the current state of play in early years policy. Our early years members and friends turned out in great numbers to participate in the discussion – thank you!
With cross-party participation, panellists included Government and opposition representatives including Jan O’Sullivan TD (Labour), Anne Rabbitte TD (Fianna Fáil), Jim Daly TD (Fine Gael), Richard Boyd Barrett TD (People before Profit) and Kathleen Funchion TD (Sinn Féin). Fergus Finlay, Chair of the Alliance’s Early Years Advisory Group, Alliance Board member and CEO of Barnardos chaired the discussion. There was a clear consensus for greater action for the needs of children in their earliest years, with strong contributions from our members and interested groups in the audience.
Children's Rights Alliance Early Years Submissions to Government
Submission to the Department of Health on Community Nursing and Midwifery
The Children’s Rights Alliance and the Prevention and Early Intervention Network made a joint submission in April to the Department of Health. The submission aimed to support and inform the consultation process on the development of a Community Nursing and Midwifery Response. The aim is to deliver an integrated model of care that organises and manages health and social services so that throughout pregnancy and from birth, children and their parents get the treatment and care they need, when they need it.
This care must be user-friendly, achieve the desired results and fulfil a child’s need to access preventative care, early intervention, and treatment should they require it. You can read our submission here.
Submission on Actions to Achieve the Child Poverty Reduction Target
The Children’s Rights Alliance and the Department of Social Protection co-convened a Child Poverty Sub-group of the National Advisory Council for Children and Young People, a part of Brighter Outcomes, Better Futures (BOBF) implementation infrastructure. The Sub-group aimed to develop policy proposals for a Whole-of-Government approach to achieve the BOBF target to substantially reduce the numbers of children experiencing consistent poverty by 2020.
The NGO members of the Child Poverty Subgroup including the Children’s Rights Alliance, One Family, National Youth Council of Ireland, St Vincent de Paul and Barnardos produced a policy paper proposing actions to support the achievement of the target. The paper used the EU Recommendation on Investing in Children and includes actions related to young children and their parents. The paper was published in May 2017 and you can read it here.
While the paper was written prior to Budget 2017 and a number of the recommendations were progressed, it contains recommendations which could inform Budget 2018, in particular investment in services for children.
The National Advisory Council on Children and Young People advises the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs on the implementation of BOBF. The Advisory Council has adopted this paper as its own policy and as its advice to the Minister on actions to reduce child poverty.
Representation on Early Years Working Groups
The Working Group on Childminding Reforms is shortly to finalise its recommendations to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, which will inform sectoral reform over a 10-year period.
This is the first time an Irish Government has committed to a strategy of reform for the childminding sector. We must use this opportunity to support the sector to deliver safe, high-quality, home-based care and education opportunities to children and supports for their parents.
Liz Kerrins, Early Years Manager, sits on the Working Group on Childminding Reforms and Supports, which is chaired by Childminding Ireland. The terms of reference of the Working Group are to:
- examine the feasibility and implications of mandatory regulation;
- identify the reforms and supports required for a robust system of quality assurance;
- make proposals and cost short, medium and long-term reforms and supports for the sector.
Liz is also a member of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs’s Working Group on Standards in School Age Childcare. The establishment of the group is an action in Ireland’s first Action Plan on School Age Childcare, prepared jointly by the Department of Education and Skills (DES) and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. The purpose of the Group is to prepare Ireland’s first set of quality standards for school age childcare.
The Working Group has met twice and is due to report to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs this September.
Early Years Policy Round-Up
Final Review of Occupation Role Profiles in Early Childhood Education and Care (Department of Education and Skills)
Published in May, this report recommends amendments to: the ECEC workforce; core knowledge areas; pathways to professionalisation and systemic development.
The Early Years Policy Unit in the DES commissioned the Early Childhood Research Centre at the University of Roehampton, London (Dr Mathias Urban et al) to review the 2002 Model Framework of Occupation Roles in ECEC. The approach included consultation with the sector, in which the Alliance participated.
The Alliance looks forward to engaging with the Department’s Early Years Policy Unit on these matters.
Report on the National Consultation Process and the Trial of Early Years Education-Focused Inspections (Dept of Education and Skills)
The overall conclusion of the report is that the Early Years Inspections are welcomed as a positive and necessary step in the evolution of professional practice, but that there is a wide degree of varying capacity amongst settings to engage with the inspection process. The unavailability of dedicated non-contact time arose as an issue. This report is available from the Department of Education and Skills.
The DES Inspectorate is conducting another survey to gather the views of a wide range of stakeholders on early years inspections. The survey can be completed here. The deadline is 10 July 2017.
National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy 2017-2021 (Dept of Justice and Equality)
The Department of Justice and Equality published the new National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy in May. Early years commitments include:
- Promoting the Free Preschool Year and the Access and Inclusion Model for children with additional needs within the Traveller and Roma communities;
- Facilitating Traveller and Roma women’s engagement in education/ employment through the Affordable Childcare Scheme (ACS);
- The Health Service Executive (HSE) is to promote immunisation uptake among members of the Roma community, particularly early childhood vaccinations;
- TUSLA-led Child and Family Networks will encourage involvement from Traveller and Roma organisations/communities when engaging with Traveller and Roma families, and will use Meitheal, the National Practice Model for early identification of need and support provision in interagency work when concerns do not require social work involvement.
The Alliance welcomes the Strategy but is concerned that children in the Roma and Traveller communities may only be eligible for an ACS subsidy for more than 15 hours per week on a parental employment basis, and parents may have pay contribute to childcare costs. The draft ACS Bill should include the Roma and Traveller child’s need for early years services as eligibility for full-time, 100 per cent ACS subsidy. The role of ECEC services in prevention and early intervention requires a wider strategic approach.
Sláintecare (The Future of Healthcare)
The Houses of the Oireachtas Committee on the Future of Healthcare, chaired by Deputy Róisín Shortall (Social Democrats), published its final report, Sláintecare, in May. The Committee aimed to develop a single cross-party long-term vision for health care and the direction of health policy in Ireland.
Recommendations include developing a single-tier health service, resourcing and developing a universal child health and wellbeing service over the next five years, including the development of Child Community Health Nursing.
Early Years Research Round-Up
Starting Strong 2017 – Key OECD Indicators on Early Childhood Education and Care
The OECD published the seventh report in its Starting Strong series in June. The Report brings together key ECEC indicators for the first time. It is available here.
The report is very useful to Irish policymakers as it gives an overview of activity and trends in ECEC in OECD countries. It contains a very accessible executive summary.
Early Years at ChildrensRights.ie
You can peruse previous issues of the Children’s Rights Alliance’s Early Years Newsletter here.
Start Strong’s main publications are available on the Resources section of our website.
Contact Liz Kerrins, Early Years Manager if you have any early years queries.