The Cabinet meeting today will determine the fate of the childcare sector for years to come. That’s according to Early Childhood Ireland, the largest organisation in the early years sector.
Commenting in advance of the meeting, Frances Byrne, Director of Policy with Early Childhood Ireland, said: “It is our understanding that the Cabinet will consider proposals today from the National Public Health Emergency Team and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs on how best to re-open the childcare sector.
“We have received welcome clarity about physical distancing and it’s also good that our members can access their settings ahead of the planned re-opening on June 29th. Our key overarching concern is the need for clarity on how the sector will be funded in the months and years to come.
“If public health advice dictates a reduction in capacity – either in operating hours or in the number of children that childcare services can accommodate – then a viable financial response must be developed by government. Any changes to reduce capacity will create a funding gap that will severely compromise the long-term sustainability of our sector.
“It is also imperative that the Government acts now to protect jobs in the sector, and to ensure staffing levels as a whole are maintained at pre-Covid-19 levels.
“The very future of the childcare sector is at stake, and the decisions made in today’s Cabinet meeting must take that into account. We need realistic solutions from government, which support quality experiences for children, safety for staff and which take account of the long-term sustainability of a vital sector.”
Ms. Byrne said Early Childhood Ireland is calling on all political parties to commit to safeguarding the early years sector.
“We are developing a set of essential measures by which Early Childhood Ireland will assess the safe and sustainable re-opening of our sector,” she said. “We will be asking all political parties and independents to publicly commit to working with us to ensure these guidelines are implemented as we re-open in the aftermath of Covid-19.”