Childcare in early years
Local TD Kathleen Funchion has welcomed the unanimous passing of a Sinn Féin motion on working conditions and pay for those in the Early Years childcare sector,
Deputy Funchion, who is Sinn Féin's Spokesperson on Childcare, tabled the motion seeking support for early years childcare staff.
"I welcome the unanimous support for our motion tonight," she said.
"This will pave the way for better working conditions and pay for staff that are facing uncertainty and providers that were at breaking point now entering the summer months.
"This summer approximately 3,500 early years educators will sign on the dole at an estimated cost of €7.5 million to the exchequer. This does not include the thousands of providers who are unable to sign on because they are classified as self-employed.
"Nor does it include the younger members of the profession who are not entitled to social welfare at all due to their parents’ income. These figures also don't include those who are eligible for FIS because their income is so low.
"Attracting and retaining a professional workforce are vital if these relationships are to flourish and this cannot be achieved if government investment is so low that the workforce is on little more than minimum wage."
The Sinn Fein TD said that national and international evidence shows that high quality early childhood education and care has positive outcomes for children and for society.
"These outcomes are even stronger for children from disadvantaged backgrounds," she said.
"However, these benefits are reliant on high quality provision.
"Early Years settings are often where learning difficulties or social issues can be detected, improving a child’s chances of getting help and assessing the level of assistance they might need early on in order to prevent future problems, developmental or otherwise.
"The type of start we give our children inevitably impacts their progress for life.There’s an intrinsic link between the working conditions of those responsible for children and the quality of care and outcomes.
"It is common sense that if a staff member is over-worked, underpaid and highly stressed, as a committed as that staff member may be, the outcomes for the children they care for will not be as positive as a person who feels valued, has relative job security and happy in their position.
"The most recent information from the Department for Children and Youth Affairs shows the costs for the proposed Affordable Childcare Scheme include wages for qualified, experienced early years educators at €10.79 over 48 weeks.
"Now that the scheme will be over 52 weeks this figure is even lower. The scheme also recommends that 'efficiency can be achieved through managing staff resources to match staff on duty to the varying numbers of children at different times of the day and different times of the year'.
"This demonstrates that government policy is committed to exploiting the early years workforce with not much regard to staff deserving a living wage or regular hours of work. This must be reassessed immediately.
"At the moment services are struggling with an IT system that is not fit for purpose, dates promised for the payment of non contact time not met, and grants not approved in the time frame promised.
"There is so far, no payment for all the extra administration required for delivering the new schemes. This is seriously frustrating service providers and is creating a pressure cooker ready to explode."