“It is fitting that it is this Committee.
“Not the Committee for stabilising the economy or the Committee to get women back to the workforce or the Committee to address poverty and deprivation.
“This Committee focuses on the needs and rights of children and the type of childhood we want for our children and that must be the focus of any plan and vision for Early Childhood Education (ECE) in Ireland.
“If the plan is about ensuring quality it will ensure that public investment goes directly into services. Tax credits won’t work.
“A child focused plan would listen to the incontrovertible evidence that children do better if they spend at least their first year with their parent.
“So we must invest in the extension of leave arrangements to ensure that children can be with a parent for at least the first year of their lives.
“A child focused plan would ensure that all children attending settings have access to the supports they need:
“Your report must call for a viable system for all operators of early childhood education. The current ECCE contract is not fit for purpose in many ways, namely:
“The bottom line is that this ECCE contract must be renegotiated and made fit for purpose, before a second year can be contemplated… and I’d welcome more questions on that.
“Your report must call for planning for sustainability. The DES have a planning document clearly setting out the requirements for schools over the next 15 years.
“The DCYA must develop the same document and construct a plan for its achievement with all stakeholders.
“The lack of a clear plan is leading to duplication and poor sustainability. Currently settings are required to take on risk of developing settings. But the current policy of unplanned expansion is resulting in oversupply. Expansion must be planned and monitored in order to ensure that existing settings can predict their viability year on year.
“This sector is a sizeable employer, employing approximately 25,000 women, women who, on average are earning approx €10 per hour. Consider the young woman who has a level 7 degree and the setting she works in receives the higher capitation for her. That is her role for 15 hours a week. In the afternoon, the only other role the setting could offer her is that of the cleaner which she has taken on as the morning salary is insufficient to live on.
“Or the young woman with a level 8 Hon Degree in ECE whose part time job is in the chipper.
“A wage of 15 hours per week @ €10 per hour for 38 week year is earning €5,700 p.a. These staff are unlikely to be offered a car loan much less a mortgage.
“They need 52 week contracts with professional salaries, continuous professional development and planning and preparation time.