With children’s outcomes determined before the age of three, Budget 2024 must invest in early years
The Children’s Rights Alliance is today (15.09.2023) calling on Government to allocate sufficient funding in Budget 2024 to allow all families, regardless of financial situation, to access affordable childcare as part of the Early Childhood Education and Care system.
Turning to ‘early years’ on the final day of the End Child Poverty Week, the Alliance has gathered leaders in the sector Chaired by Karen Kiernan, Chief Executive Officer of One Family. Today’s event will include a special address by Dr Anne Marie Brooks, Assistant Secretary General of the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth. Keynote speaker Dr Mathias Urban, Desmond Chair of Early Childhood Education, at the Early Childhood Research Centre, Dublin City University, will focus on the role of universal, free, and public early childhood education and care in ending child poverty.
Speaking in advance of the event, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, Tanya Ward said, “Despite a record level of investment of €1 billion in early childhood education and care in 2023, Ireland still has some of the highest childcare costs in Europe. In many European countries early childhood education and care is delivered through a public model of provision. When infants and small children are forced to live in poverty it has serious implications for the rest of their lives. Given that it is known that for very young children, their outcomes are determined before the age of three, continued and sustained investment in early years can play a crucial role in breaking the cycle of poverty. It is the best and most important leveller.”
The Children’s Rights Alliance is calling for ‘A Children’s Budget’ with specific investments in early years that would break the cycle of poverty for young children including:
- Funding a new early years DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) model
Introducing a DEIS type early years programme, focused on wraparound services, provision of food and parental support, must be a key priority for Government. Last year, saw a significant investment in early years services, bringing the total investment to €1 billion, but while the scale of investment is at the level it needs to be, the focus must shift to a DEIS type early years programme (this means sufficient funding to implement the first phase of the new Equal Participation Model). Traveller and Roma children are key cohorts in this model and would benefit greatly from this targeted strand approach that could be done through enhancements of existing programmes.
- Remove 98% of the cost of childcare for families on the lowest income by increasing subsidies under the National Childcare Scheme for all families in receipt of the Medical Card.
This is a relatively straightforward intervention, involving amending the current IT system to include an additional field for Medical Card holders. New affordable ECEC services must be closely linked to employment, health and social policies. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds would benefit the most from this approach, as it promotes a more equal distribution of resources, and supports parental labour market participation.
“It is our belief that, as part of a strong Children’s Budget, the single most effective way to break the cycle of child poverty is to invest in early childhood education and care. Significant investment was made in Budget 2023 that brought total funding to €1 billion, but the job is far from done. All week we have heard about the pervasive impact of intergenerational poverty across our communities. We have long called for a more strategic approach that would see children living in consistent poverty having access to early childhood education and care, similar to the DEIS style model that exists at school level. The new Equal Participation Model presents a huge opportunity to ensure children and families who would benefit most from wraparound supports can access them. We need to ensure that the funding and resources are in place to bolster this model and its rollout,” continued Tanya Ward.
“We also need to provide parents struggling to keep their heads above water with access to childcare that can allow them the space and time to afford to go back to work. Fixing this problem needs to see Government stepping up and subsidising an affordable ECEC system next month.”
“I’ve said this time and time again, and I’ll keep on saying it: poverty is not inevitable. Children living in poverty is not inevitable. Political choices are allowing it to happen and political choices can stop it. Government can choose to offer young children the life we would all want them to have, and to break the heart-breaking cycle of intergenerational poverty we’ve heard about this week.”
Notes to Editors:
- This is an online event taking place via Zoom Friday 15 September, 10.30am-1.00pm. Register to tune in online here.
- The event is chaired by Karen Kiernan, Chief Executive Officer of One Family, and includes a a special address by Dr Anne Marie Brooks, Assistant Secretary General of the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, followed by keynote speaker Dr Mathias Urban Desmond, Chair of Early Childhood Education, at the Early Childhood Research Centre, Dublin City University
Panel speakers also include:
- Grainne McKenna, Chair of Poppintree Early Years Service, Assistant Professor at Dublin City University, Institute of Education
- Tracey Reilly, Education Development Worker, Pavee Point
- Geraldine O'Hara, Head of Operations, Daughters of Charity
- Dr Naomi Feely, Senior Research and Policy Officer, Children’s Rights Alliance.
- Children’s Rights Alliance spokespeople are available for media interviews; other speakers available upon request.
- End Child Poverty Week is supported by the Community Foundation for Ireland and The Fidelis Foundation. The week-long series of events focuses on five thematic areas of child poverty, the root causes and the best practice solutions needed to break the cycle of poverty for children and young people. Details of the other events are available here.
- The Children’s Rights Alliance Pre-Budget Submission, published in June 2023, is available here.
- The Children’s Rights Alliance Child Poverty Monitor 2023 is available here.
About the Children’s Rights Alliance:
Founded in 1995, the Children’s Rights Alliance unites over 145 members working together to make Ireland one of the best places in the world to be a child. Further information is available at: www.childrensrights.ie or on Twitter, @ChildRightsIRL #EndChildPovertyWeek #ChildrensBudget24