• Statement from Teresa Heeney CEO of Early Childhood Ireland appearing before the Joint Committee on Health and Children

    Posted on May 8, 2015 by in News Updates

    As part of its consultative process, in the preparation for a Report on the Development of Quality and Affordable Child Care

    ECI Logo“We welcome the invitation to be here today and congratulate the Committee on the decision to prepare a report on childcare at this critical time.

    “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:

    • “This includes children with additional needs, who have virtually no access to special needs support in their preschool and so often cannot access their entitlement as the service cannot accommodate them;
    • “This includes children under the age of 3, whose parents receive virtually no support when it comes to paying for the costs of their childcare;
    • “This includes children in services  in our most disadvantaged areas which employ staff under Community Employment schemes due to lack of funding;
    • “It includes children in childminding settings, the vast bulk of whom are unregulated and therefore totally uninspected  and children in after school settings which are also unregulated and uninspected;
    • “And it includes parents of all of these children who rightfully expect that they should not have to pay the full cost of childcare themselves, amounting to an average 34% of their income, double that of their European counterparts.

    “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 Capitation doesn’t cover costs and doesn’t allow a sufficient margin for additional bills or costs;
    • “There is no doubt that many settings are trading recklessly. Consider the setting required to build a sleep room for compliance. She’s been paying the builder €400 every month for the past 3 years & will be paying this for another 5 years. That service made a net loss of €3000 last year.
    • “It doesn’t allow for any planning or development of a service;
    • “We know that owner managers often take no salary and have no access to income at all over the Summer; and that staff are required to go  on the dole over the Summer;
    • “We have advocated for years about commercial rates being charged on ECE settings. Just last evening we received a call from a member who owns a small service in Limerick where a Revaluation has recently been completed. Her commercial rates bill will go from €4290 in 2014 to €9447 for 2015.  Another woman I spoke with last Friday is about to be sued by her Council as she hasn’t paid her rates in 6 years. Her rates bill is €30k.

    “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.

    “Thank you.”

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