Minister publishes detailed implementation plan for First 5, the whole-of-Government strategy for babies, young children and their families
The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr. Katherine Zappone, has today (22nd May) unveiled the Government’s initial Implementation Plan for ‘First 5’, Ireland’s first ever strategy
for early childhood.
First 5 is a radical ten-year strategy that will deliver:
- A broader range of options for parents to balance working and caring
- A new model of parenting support
- New developments in child health, including a dedicated child health workforce
- Reform of the Early Learning and Care (ELC) system, including a new funding model
- A package of measures to tackle early childhood poverty
The Implementation Plan describes the ambitious steps that will be taken in the initial implementation phase – from 2019 to 2021. Its development was led by an Inter-Departmental Group chaired by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.
Speaking about today’s publication, Minister Zappone said:
“As Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, I am delighted to publish the First 5 Implementation Plan
This three-year plan describes the steps we will take in the short term to reform the architecture of early childhood services over the next decade, ensuring that children have the necessary supports in life to develop to their full potential.
This Plan sets us well on course towards fully realising the vision of First 5”.
First 5 includes more than 150 actions that will be progressed in the initial implementation phase. A summary of key actions and milestones includes:
i. Access to a broader range of options for parents to balance working and caring
The schedule of milestones to be achieved will ensure that by 2021, parents will have an individual entitlement to seven weeks of paid parental leave, to potentially allow children to benefit from an additional 14 weeks of parental care in their first year. There are also a range of milestones identified so that by 2021:
breastfeeding mothers in the workforce will be entitled to breastfeeding/lactation breaks for up to 104 weeks following the birth of their child.
parents of all children up to the age of 12 will be entitled to 26 weeks of unpaid parental leave.
employment legislation, culture and practice will better enable parents of young children to balance working and caring roles.
This work will be led by the Departments of Justice and Equality, and Employment Affairs and Social Protection and will be supported by the Departments of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, and Children and Youth Affairs.
ii. A new model of parenting support
The First 5 Implementation Plan sets out a programme of work so that by 2021, there will be:
high-quality, consistent parenting information resources available to meet parents’ requirements,
a public information campaign on positive parenting; and
a national model of parenting services - ranging from universal to targeted - including high-quality parenting programmes.
This work will be led by the new Parenting Unit, recently established by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and will be supported by a number of other Government Departments.
iii. New developments in child health
Arising from milestones identified in the First 5 Implementation Plan, there will be considerable enhancements to child health supports over the next three years. These will build on and align with existing health policies, including the Healthy Ireland Policy Framework and the new National Oral Health Policy, Smile agus Sláinte.
In the initial implementation phase, under the leadership of the Department of Health, there will be:
new Healthy Eating Guidelines for 1–5 Year Olds,
new Nutrition Standards for Early Learning and Care settings for 1–5 Year Olds, including a toolkit for implementation,
a review of the content and scope of the Maternity and Infant Care Scheme,
new preventive oral healthcare packages introduced for children under 6 and,
enhancements to the National Healthy Childhood Programme, which covers child health reviews screening and vaccinations among others.
There will also be significant progress made in the development of a dedicated child health workforce, focussed initially in areas of high population density and disadvantage, with the foundational work needed for this transformative action completed in the initial implementation phase.
iv. Reform of the Early Learning and Care (ELC) System
A clear pathway to improve affordability, accessibility and quality of Early Learning and Care and School-Age Care is set out with a schedule of milestones to:
introduce the National Childcare Scheme,
move progressively towards a graduate-led professional Early Learning and Care workforce,
introduce regulations for paid childminders and school-age childcare, and
build on the National Childcare Scheme, undertake foundational work required to develop a new funding model for Early Learning and Care that will support improved quality without compromising affordability for parents or sustainability for providers.
This work will be led by the Departments of Children and Youth Affairs, and Education and Skills.
v. A package of measures to tackle early childhood poverty, including income, energy and food poverty
The First 5 Implementation Plan describes steps that will be taken to alleviate poverty in early childhood. This will include income poverty, energy poverty and food poverty measures. It will ensure that by 2021, there will be:
expanded access to free and subsidised Early Learning and Care allowing families to take up employment.
extensions to Warmth and Well-Being and Warmer Home Schemes.
piloting of the meals and milk programmes with early learning and care settings.
greater access to Community Cooking Programmes.
Preliminary work to develop and pilot a DEIS-type model for Early Learning and Care settings will be progressed.
This work will be led by a number of Government Departments, including Children and Youth Affairs, Health, Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and Employment Affairs and Social Protection.
Commenting on the Implementation Plan, Minister Zappone reflected on the progress that has already made – with implementation of many actions already well underway.
“Considerable progress has already been made to deliver on the commitments in First 5 since it was published in November 2018.
Within my own Department, I have started to put in place some of the essential building blocks for successful implementation, including a Parenting Support Policy Unit, a First 5 Implementation Office and a First 5 Research and Evaluation Plan.
I recently published the membership and terms of reference for the Steering Group on the Workforce Development Plan for the Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare Sector and, in the next month, the membership and terms of reference for the Expert Group to reform the funding model will be announced.
Adding to this, intensive preparations for the launch of the landmark National Childcare Scheme later this year continue”.
The Minister welcomed the collaborative efforts and shared ambition to deliver on the vision of First 5 across Government Departments, State Agencies and the Community and Voluntary Sector.
“First 5 is a whole-of-Government, whole of-society strategy – everyone will play a part.
As we move to deliver this Implementation Plan, my Department will continue to provide leadership of this collective effort.
I look forward to continued collaboration with colleagues across Government Departments, State Agencies, Community and Voluntary Sector and wider partners in the pursuit of better outcomes for babies, young children and their families."
The Implementation Plan will form the basis of an annual report, which will be developed by the First 5 Implementation Office, recently established by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to oversee monitoring and reporting of First 5 implementation.
Monday 18th February 2019
Regulations requiring the registration of school-age childcare services came into effect today, 18th February 2019.
Childcare services for school-age children must now register with Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. School-age childcare services have not, to date, been subject to registration, so this is a significant step forward in ensuring quality school-age childcare.
Services that provide childcare for school-age children only must apply for registration by 18 May 2019 and are encouraged to start this process straightaway. School-age services that are already registered with Tusla as pre-school services must apply for registration by 18 August 2019. New services must apply for registration at least 3 months before opening.
Once registered, school age childcare services will be able to participate in the forthcoming Affordable Childcare Scheme launching in late 2019. This means families availing of these services will be able to access the financial benefits provided by the scheme.
Minister Zappone stated: “Today is another milestone in the development of quality, accessible and affordable early learning and care and school-age childcare in Ireland. I am delighted that the new School Age Childcare Regulations have now commenced. The new Regulations, which require that all school-age childcare services be registered with Tusla, will help to ensure that children attend services that are suitable, of high quality, and safe.”
The Regulations that came into force today are preliminary regulations. Later this year the Department of Children and Youth Affairs will embark on a public consultation process on the development of comprehensive regulations and national quality standards for school-age childcare. Both the Regulations and an Explanatory Guide are available on the Department’s website.
School-age childcare services can apply for registration online at www.tusla.ie.
If a school-age childcare service wants any support regarding the registration process, they should contact their local city/county childcare committee www.myccc.ie.
Online safety risks must be assessed by Organisations working with children and young people
Minister Zappone publishes Addendum to Children First Guidance
Friday 18th January 2019
Groups, clubs and services working with young people are required by law to assess and manage online risks, according to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone.
Minister Zappone has signed and published an addendum to Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children on on-line safety.
It makes clear that all organisations and services working with young people must include online risks and safeguards in their legally required Child Safeguarding Statements.
Safeguarding Statements have been a legal requirement since March 2018 after Minister Zappone commenced all sections of Children’s First in December 2017.
Speaking today the Minister said “The internet is a hugely valuable resource that has brought so many positive opportunities for learning, creating and communicating across the whole of society.
However, with these increased opportunities has come increased risks. There are those online who wish to harm, hurt or abuse our children. We all have a responsibility to offer protection and safety from this danger.
This responsibility extends to relevant services who offer internet access, PCs and wifi. Organisations who work with our young people need to know how to identify and manage these risks, and know the appropriate response if a child is at risk."
The Minister noted that the Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children was fully revised and published in 2017 to reflect the provisions in the Act and stated “This addendum to the guidance does not alter or increase the obligations on organisations providing services to children under the Act, rather it clarifies that the specific issue of online safety should be considered when carrying out risk assessments and preparing Child Safeguarding Statements.”
The Minister added that a range of Government Departments and agencies have a role in relation to internet safety saying that, “the cross-Government approach required to tackle online safety issues is recognised in the Government’s Action Plan for Online Safety, which sets out the wide range of actions and activities that are underway across a number of Government Departments to support and promote online safety for children and adults”.
New Registration System Brings School Age Childcare into Affordable Childcare Scheme
- School age childcare services to be registered for first time with Tusla
- Minister Zappone signs the Childcare Support Act 2018 (Commencement) Order 2018 and the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) (Registration of School Age Services) Regulations 2018, enabling school age childcare services to register and participate in new Affordable Childcare Scheme
- The families of over 17,750 school age children benefited from government childcare subsidies last year. Thousands more could benefit in 2019 through the Affordable Childcare Scheme
- Regulations represent an important first step in the full regulation and inspection of school age childcare services
- Another major milestone to quality affordable, accessible childcare
Thursday 27th December 2018
Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone, TD, has today signed Regulations which will provide, for the first time in Ireland, for the registration of school age childcare services.
Minister Zappone has signed the Childcare Support Act (Commencement) Order 2018, bringing into force key amendments to the Child Care Act 1991 in relation to the definition of school-age service.
This paves the way for Regulations- which the Minister also signed- on the mandatory registration of school-age services, procedures for registration and on-going requirements for continuing registration.
School age childcare services have not, to date, been subject to registration and, so, this is a significant step forward in ensuring quality school age childcare for thousands of working families.
Once registered, school age childcare services will be able to participate in the forthcoming Affordable Childcare Scheme launching in late 2019.
This means families availing of these services will be able to access the financial benefits provided by the scheme.
On signing the Regulations, Minister Zappone noted:
“We have been working tirelessly to deliver quality, accessible, affordable early learning and care and school age childcare in Ireland. Paramount to this is the ongoing development and improvement of quality provision for children. As such, I am delighted to establish a statutory registration system for school age childcare services; services that provide such a vitally important support to working parents throughout the country.
Parents can be assured that these new Regulations represent an important first step in paving the way for full regulation and inspection of school-age services in the future. They also ensure that parents will now have access to the Affordable Childcare Scheme when it launches next year. This progressive measure will, therefore, improve both the quality and affordability of school age childcare for Irish families over time.”
Only registered school age childcare services will be able to provide services under the Affordable Childcare Scheme. The regulations will come into effect on 18th February 2019 and services will be able to register with Tusla from that date. More detail on registration requirements are set out in the Frequently Asked Questions document which can be accessed at the following link, click here
A comprehensive and ‘plain English’ explanatory guide will also be published alongside the Regulations on the Department’s website.
Once the registration of school age services has been completed, more comprehensive regulations will be introduced in a move that mirrors the enhanced regulation and inspection of early learning and care settings over recent years.
Government launches First 5, A Whole-of-Government Strategy for
Babies, Young Children and their Families
19th November 2018
The Government has today unveiled ‘First 5’, Ireland’s first ever cross-Departmental strategy to support babies, young children and their families.
The ambitious ten-year plan will deliver:
1. A broader range of options for parents to balance working and caring
2. A new model of parenting support
3. New developments in child health, including a dedicated child health workforce
4. Reform of the Early Learning and Care (ELC) system, including a new funding model
5. A package of measures to tackle early childhood poverty
The Strategy was jointly launched by the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr. Katherine Zappone, Minister for Health, Simon Harris, TD, and Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills, Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD.
Also in attendance were representatives from the various Government Departments and State Agencies tasked with implementation. The launch coincided with a play morning at the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to mark the launch of First 5 and celebrate World Children’s Day.
Speaking at today’s launch, the Taoiseach said:
“The Government wants to make life easier for families, while also providing children with the best possible start. The first five years of a child’s life only happen once, but the impact of their experiences during this period can last a lifetime. For this reason, the Government has developed the ‘First 5’ Strategy.
“This is the first strategy of its kind in Ireland, setting out a road map for change and development over the coming decade. Building on the many positive developments for young children in recent years, including family leave, subsidised Early Learning and Care, free GP care and a new Children’s Hospital, First 5 will significantly enhance early childhood in Ireland.”
There are five major areas of action in which the Strategy will drive change - the First 5 Big Steps. These are:
1. Access to a broader range of options for parents to balance working and caring led by the Departments of Justice and Equality and Employment Affairs and Social Protection.
In order to support children to spend more time with their parents, especially in the first year, First 5 sets out plans to develop a new parental leave scheme. This will deliver extended entitlements to paid leave for both fathers and mothers. Minister Doherty will also develop a hot meals initiative for children in disadvantaged schools.
Speaking before today’s launch, Minister Doherty said:
“I was particularly pleased to recently introduce a new parental benefit scheme which will allow both parents to access an additional two weeks leave in the first year of their child’s life. Over the coming years, it the Government’s intention to extend this entitlement to 7 weeks per parent. This initiative allows us to respond to the vital need to support parents of young children and recognises the formative nature of the first year of a child’s life.
“Additionally, in the context of today’s Strategy, I will also be providing additional funding for a hot school meals pilot programme to commence next year. Research shows us the value of the provision of adequate and nutritious meals for a child’s health, learning, attention and educational achievement. I will be establishing a pilot programme for a hot meals scheme in DEIS primary schools to provide hot dinners for up to some 7,200 children. If successful, I would hope to work with the Department of Education and Skills (DES) in extending the scheme on a much wider basis in future years and establish the scheme on a permanent basis.”
2 New developments in child health
First 5 sets out new measures to promote positive health behaviours and the mental health of babies, young children and their families, and to enhance the National Healthy Childhood Programme.
“We know that good physical and mental health in the early years is essential for children’s experiences and for their later outcomes. Positive experiences in early childhood mean reduced incidence of heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease and depression. There is no doubt that investment in health promotion and health services in the early years pay dividends for children, families, and for the health service. This is a fundamental part of creating a Healthy Ireland, giving every child the best start in life.” Minister Harris said.
Minister Harris also announced plans to develop a dedicated child health workforce, focussed initially in areas of high population density and disadvantage. This, Minister Harris said:“will increase the capacity of the HSE to provide health promotion and prevention and early intervention services for the benefit all babies and young children”.
3. A new model of parenting support led by a new Parenting Unit established by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs
First 5 streamlines and improves existing parenting supports provided across a range of Government Departments and State Agencies. Accessible, high-quality information and guidance will be made available for parents to promote healthy behaviours, facilitate positive play-based early learning and create the conditions to form and maintain strong parent-child relationships. A continuum of parenting services – ranging from universal to targeted - including high-quality parenting programmes, will also be made available.
At today’s event, Minister Zappone said:
“Experts, including children themselves, recognise the essential role played by families in nurturing healthy child development. That is why strengthening families is at the heart of this Strategy.
Alongside greater opportunities to balance work and home life through parental leave and flexible working, First 5 develop a new national model of parenting supports, ranging from universal to targeted - making parenting supports and high quality programmes more accessible to all families for the first time”
4. Reform of the Early Learning and Care (ELC) system led by the Departments of Children and Youth Affairs and Education and Skills
First 5 builds on the very significant developments in ELC over recent years and seeks to further improve affordability, accessibility and quality. Measures include introducing the Affordable Childcare Scheme, moving progressively towards a graduate-led professional ELC workforce and the extension of regulations and supports to all paid childminders and school-age childcare services.
Under this, Minister Zappone announced her plans to at least double investment in ELC over the next decade building on the unprecedented 117% increase in investment in ELC that has been secured over the last four years.
“More funding, even if it reaches these record levels, is only part of the answer,” the Minister warned. “We must ensure public funding is allocated efficiently, fairly and that it is targeted in the correct manner to deliver the best results for children.
This additional investment will continue to reduce the out of pocket cost of ELC to parents. It will compensate providers so that they can deliver ELC on a sustainable and high-quality basis. Importantly, it will be used to attract and retain a well-qualified workforce, enabling continued professional development across their career and creating more supportive working conditions so that the workforce feel valued”.
This will be achieved through a radical reform of the funding model for ELC with work commencing on that model to commence in early 2019.
These measures will coincide with developments in the primary education sector. At the launch, Minister Mitchell O’Connor asserted a commitment to working with Minister Zappone on raising the quality of ELC and supporting children’s the transition to primary education.
“As an educator, having been a school principal in a previous life, I know only too well the importance of a smooth educational continuum for all children as they move from their pre-schools into school. It is imperative that we continue to work with professionals and agencies in both the early learning and care sector and the primary school sector to make absolutely sure this transition is supported.
The most important person in this equation is the child. Our role is to ensure that all children experience high quality, age appropriate learning opportunities wherever they are, in settings, schools or at home. Our experts in the NCCA and in the Inspectorate are a hugely important voice in articulating how very young children’s learning and development is supported through play based and emergent child-led curriculums.”
5. A package of measures to tackle early childhood poverty
First 5 identifies new measures that will address poverty in early childhood, including expanded access to free and subsidised ELC, extensions to the Warmth and Well-Being and Warmer Homes Schemes and the introduction of a meals programme and DEIS-type model for ELC settings.
“Tackling inequalities that can emerge in early childhood are critical is if are to give all children the best start in life” Minister Zappone said. “Children deserve a happy and fulfilled childhood. By introducing measures to tackle early childhood poverty, we will give children a strong and equal start”.
The implementation of First 5 will be overseen by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. A detailed implementation plan will be published in the coming months.
Budget 2019: Minister Zappone announces a €127m package
€89m increase for childcare ….
• Introduction of new Affordable Childcare Scheme
• Maximum Net Income Threshold increased by 26% from €47,500 to €60,000 per annum
• Changes will benefit thousands of families; will bring an additional 7,500 children into the scheme, with improved subsidies for over 40,000 others
€33m increase in Tusla funding
• Implementation of HIQA recommendations
• Extra funding for Family Resource Centres and Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence Services
• Financial base secured with 4% increase over 2018
Wednesday 10th October 2018
Katherine Zappone TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has announced extra funding of €127m for child care and youth services, bringing the total investment by her Department to €1.5 billion for 2019. The Minister said:
"I am very pleased that we have again delivered as promised on the commitment to continue investing in our children and young people. Today’s €127m package represents another significant step in ensuring access to high quality, affordable childcare and ensuring that Tusla is in a position to continue on its programme of service reform and targeted development of key services.
Budget 2019 represents another significant step in ensuring access to high quality, affordable childcare and education with annual investment now rising to €574m.
The additional €89m in 2019 will allow for thousands of families to benefit due to increased income thresholds under the Affordable Childcare Scheme. The significant increase in the maximum net income threshold from €47,000 to €60,000 per annum means that an estimated 7,500 more children will benefit from the scheme relative to the original proposals. Over 40,000 other children, already eligible, will see increases to their subsidies. The new measures ensure that families with, in some cases, a gross income of up to €100,000 will benefit from the scheme."
The Minister continued,
"I am delighted we are able to increase income thresholds to bring more children and families into the scheme, I am also very pleased that I have managed to adjust the lower income band, meaning that maximum subsidy rates will now be paid to all families with a net annual income of up to €26,000 . This ‘poverty proofs’ the scheme by ensuring that families at or below the relative income poverty line will benefit from the very highest subsidy rates under the scheme.
Another significant element of the increased childcare provision in Budget 2019 is an additional €10m for the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM). AIM is a suite of resources that enables children with disabilities to access and fully participate in the ECCE scheme."
The Minister also commented that she was delighted to be in a position to allocate €0.5m to create a team of Childminding Support Officers to support the registration of childminders with Tusla and to help them upskill to required regulatory standards to be introduced in the coming years. Only childminders registered with Tusla will be able to offer the ACS.
"The childcare providers who play an integral role in the delivery of all of the DCYA childcare schemes will continue to receive a Programme Support Payment in 2019. The amount for the PSP has increased from €18m to €19.4m, an increase of nearly 8%. The allocation for capital grant supports has also been increased by nearly a third from €6.8m to €8.8m with a focus on increasing the number of places available and supporting the transition of services to the new Affordable Childcare Scheme."
Tusla will receive an increase of €33m in 2019 bringing its total allocation to €786m - an increase of 4% over 2018. The extra funding will be used to progress a number of key priorities including the implementation of recommendations made by HIQA on the management of child sexual abuse allegations and supporting Tusla to deliver on the Government’s commitments relating to unaccompanied minor refugees under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme.
The Minister said,
I strongly support Tusla’s important work and have secured an additional €110m for the agency since becoming Minister in 2016. The additional resources provided are necessary in order to deliver on a significant programme of service reform and have also allowed for targeted development of key services.
In this context the Minister acknowledged the work done by Tusla in 2018 in supporting and developing Family Resource Centres and is pleased to be in a position to provide for further investment and development. In addition, the increase in Tusla funding in 2019 will allow for further investment in Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence services.
"In addition to the increases for childcare and Tusla, the Minister commented on a number of other important developments she wishes to progress in 2019. The increased funding for her Department will allow for the establishment of the Guardian ad Litem executive office in the Department to put in place a nationally organised and managed GAL service. It will also assist the Adoption Authority of Ireland meet increased costs they will experience in meeting responsibilities under the forthcoming Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill."
It replaces the previous Guide to Early Years Education Focused Inspection (EYEI) in Early years Settings Participating in the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Programme (2016). It was developed in light of the experience inspecting early years settings since April 2016 and following consultation with stakeholders and partners involved in the development and delivery of high quality early childhood education and care in Ireland.
· €1.2m funding to provide first aid training for every registered childcare service in the country.
· Certain childminders to be supported to register with Tusla with new training bursary.
· Nine additional Tusla Early Years Inspectors to be recruited. Eligibility broadened to include graduates in early years for the first time.
· Tusla launches new Quality and Regulatory Framework to strengthen consistency in inspections of childcare services.
Wednesday 5th September 2018
Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr Katherine Zappone today announced a range of measures to improve the quality of childcare delivered to children across the country in setting based services and with childminders.
Funding is to be made available to provide one free place (worth €250) on a First Aid Response training course for every registered childcare service, in a move that will cost €1.2m over a two year period. The funding will also be available to an estimated 250 childminders who are not yet registered.
Minister Zappone has also announced the introduction of a post-award bursary to support childminders who obtain a relevant NFQ Level 5 qualification, which is a requirement for childminders to register with Tusla. Further actions to support childminders will be announced before the end of the year in a childminding action plan which will assist with up skilling and quality assurance.
In addition, Minister Zappone has announced that Tusla is opening a recruitment campaign for nine new Early Years Inspectors, to strengthen the capacity of the Tusla Inspectorate. Historically, Inspectors could only be Public Health Nurses but this has been reformed to open these posts to individuals from a wider range of disciplines, including graduates from early years care and education programmes.
Speaking of the announcements, Minister Zappone said:
“We cannot rest when it comes to the quality of care and education we deliver to our youngest children. We know that high quality experiences provided at this young age can have a massively positive impact on the lives and future outcomes of our youngest children. I am delighted to be launching these further measures; each of which will combine to maintain our progress in building and delivering the best quality childcare system here in Ireland.”
Minister Zappone made the announcements on these new quality measures as Tusla launched a new Quality and Regulatory Framework (QRF), which is intended to improve the consistency of inspection of childcare services across the country. The QRF was developed by Tusla in consultation with childcare providers and parents and covers the areas of governance; health, welfare and development of the Child; safety; and the standard of premises and facilities.
It is important to note that only Inspection reports arising from inspection under the Childcare Act (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016, which commenced on 30th June 2016, will be published. In cases where a service has not yet had an inspection under the 2016 Regulations, then the next most recent report will be published.
The process of uploading the reports is ongoing and will be complete at the end of July 2018. At that point each registered service will have a published report..
Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone, “delighted to introduce the first ever legislation on childcare support for families”.
For the first time, families to enjoy a clear, legal entitlement to financial support for childcare.
Tuesday 26th June 2018
The legislation establishing the new Affordable Childcare Scheme- the Childcare Support Bill- completed its passage through the Houses of the Oireachtas this evening, and is expected to be enacted in the coming days.
The groundbreaking legislation is a first. For the first time ever, childcare support is enshrined in primary legislation. There will be a clear legal entitlement to financial support for childcare costs, benefiting generations of families to come. The Childcare Support Bill 2017 was published in December and has received widespread, cross-party support as it travelled through the Houses of the Oireachtas.
Once launched, the Affordable Childcare Scheme will provide financial support to help reduce the cost of childcare for parents. Through this financial support, the scheme aims to improve access; assist families to return to work and training; reduce child poverty; and improve outcomes for children.
“I believe everyone is aware of the importance of delivering accessible, affordable, quality childcare to families in Ireland. It is a key priority of this government and will require sustained investment and momentum over the coming years to achieve the childcare system that families in Ireland both need and deserve,” commented Minister Zappone.
“In establishing the Affordable Childcare Scheme, the Bill creates a platform with the ability to flex and expand to allow more children and families to benefit from greater State investment in childcare in the years ahead. In short, it is an essential foundation for my pledge to transform our childcare system from one of the most expensive in the world to one of the best. We cannot make that step-change without it.”
The development of the administrative and IT infrastructure for the new scheme is well under way. Minister Zappone will outline timescales for the launch of the scheme once the external IT developer is fully in place.
In the meantime, there is continued growth in the number of children who have benefited from the childcare supports put in place in September 2017 to lower the cost of childcare for families. The families of more than 76,000 children have already benefited from such supports since last September.
Parents interested in knowing more about their childcare entitlements should go to www.affordablechildcare.ie
14 May, 2018 - Government launch new project to bring specialised therapists into schools and pre-schools
150 schools and pre-schools taking part in Pilot, bringing speech and language therapists and occupational therapists into schools and pre-schools
Government focuses on early intervention and tailored supports
The Minister for Education and Skills, Mr. Richard Bruton T.D., the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr. Katherine Zappone T.D., and the Minister for Health, Mr. Simon Harris T.D. today (14th May, 2018) launched the first ever project to provide in-school and pre-school therapy services. The project will be managed and co-ordinated by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE).
The model has been developed by the Departments of Education, Children and Youth Affairs and Health and is part of the government’s overall aim to help every child to fulfil their full potential.
The purpose of the project is to test a model of tailored therapeutic supports that allow for early intervention in terms of providing speech and language and occupational therapy within ‘educational settings’. Additionally, it is important to acknowledging that this innovative pilot will also compliment existing HSE funded provision of essential therapy services within each of the nine Community Healthcare Organisations.
150 schools and pre-schools will test the model in Phase 1 of the project, which will take place over the course of the 2018/2019 school year. The project has been developed in conjunction with the Health Service Executive (HSE). €2.25m is being allocated to Phase One of the project in 2018.
As part of the programme, 19 speech and language therapists and 12 Occupational Therapists will be recruited by the HSE to work with the 150 schools and pre-schools. The NCSE will also recruit 2 National Co-ordinators to manage the project.
Phase one of the project will focus on:
- Early intervention and tailored supports.
- Bringing specialised therapists into schools and pre-schools to provide tailored support to children.
- Collaboration and greater linkages between therapists, parents, teachers and other school and pre-school staff.
- Developing greater linkages between educational and therapy supports.
- Providing professional training and guidance for school and pre-school staff and parents in supporting children’s therapy and developmental needs.
- Maximising the participation of parents in their children’s communication development.
- Launching the project in Presentation Primary School, the Minister for Education and Skills, said: “The government’s aim is to help every child to fulfil their potential. Identifying a speech and language issue in a child, and dealing with that issue, can have a dramatic impact on that child’s life prospects.
“We have set the ambition to make Ireland’s education and training service the best in Europe by 2026. Parents tell us consistently that they would like to see greater levels of cooperation and integration between different services. A more cohesive, collaborative approach to delivering tailored supports to children in our schools is key to becoming the best.
“This model will bring together therapists and educational professionals who have until now often operated separately.
“It will allow them to work together to plan, collaborate, and share their professional knowledge and expertise. The project will allow therapists to use their time more efficiently to support greater numbers of pupils in school environments, where there are often large concentrations of need.
“The development of children’s speech and language capabilities is clearly linked to their capacity to develop literacy skills, and thus to access the curriculum. That is why we seek to address these issues at the earliest possible point and intervene early. We wish to see therapists and teachers working together to achieve better outcomes for children.”
Launching the project, Minister Zappone, said, “I am especially pleased that pre-schools will be central to the project. The 75 primary and post-primary schools that will take part will be matched by 75 pre-schools, demonstrating the importance of early intervention in supporting children with additional needs.
“We already know how important it is to act early in a child’s life to provide supports, and then to maintain supports throughout childhood. This project will test a practical and innovative approach to ensuring that both universal and targeted therapeutic supports are available in children’s early years.”
Minister Harris, said, “It is exciting to see such positive interagency collaboration between the health and education sectors that will result in the delivery of increased and better co-ordinated therapy supports for vulnerable Children”.
“Pathway to a Quality Support and Assurance System for Childminding in Ireland”
Minister Zappone – Speech at Launch of Report of the Working Group
on Reforms and Supports for the Childminding Sector
Monday 26th March, 2018
Minister Zappone will this evening welcome a Report of the Working Group on Reforms and Supports for the Childminding Sector at the Law Society in Dublin.
The group, chaired by Bernadette Orbinski-Burke, CEO of Childminding Ireland, has produced a range of recommendations. These will be considered by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs over the coming months in order to develop a plan to support the development of the childminding sector in Ireland. The Group carried out detailed work - meeting nine times since late 2016.
It is estimated that 35,000 childminders care for as many as 88,000 children throughout Ireland.
Minister Zappone said:
‘The working group has, through this report, provided my Department with an extensive and considered range of recommendations, reflective of the diverse range of experience and expertise of the working group members. I very much appreciate the commitment that the Group has shown and the time it has given to consider and propose major change, change that should be accompanied by appropriate supports. My Department is fortunate to have such a strong basis from which to now move forward.’
Furthermore, in recognising the importance of the childminding sector in Ireland, she noted:
‘I am conscious that the flexibility offered, and the home from home environment provided by childminders, is very important to many families in Ireland. Childcare Regulations introduced in 2016 have a strong focus on centre based care and have done much to assure parents of the quality of service their child should receive in these services. In establishing this expert group on childminding, I sought to start a similar journey with the childminding sector. I hoped that the working group could come up with proposals that would, in time, support a move towards an appropriate level of regulation of childminders and with the accompanying supports required. I am delighted that this is what has been achieved.’
The report is strongly in favour of establishing the sector professionally, with a long term view to inclusion in the Government financial support schemes, in particular the Affordable Childcare Scheme that is being developed. The group highlighted the need for the next steps to feed into the forthcoming National Early Years Strategy.
The report defines a Childminding Service as being ‘offered by a person who single handedly takes care of children aged from 0-15 years old, which may include the persons own children, in the person’s home, for payment, for a total of more than two-hours per day.’
The report recognises that the proposals will require legislative change – including changes to the Childcare Act.
The report recommends that Au Pairs and Nannies should not be considered as ‘child-minders’ and that they should remain outside the State’s childcare support programmes but that the Department should give consideration to training and information supports for families employing these personnel.
DCYA has committed to putting in place an action plan for implementation of the report by the end of the year with short, medium and long-term goals.
A spokesperson for the Minister said that the launch of this report represents another step for the Minister in transforming Ireland’s childcare sector from being one of the most expensive in the world to one of the best.
Childcare providers are today being urged to participate in an online survey as part of the Independent Review
of Costs of Providing Quality Childcare
Statement by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs - Dr Katherine Zappone TD
Childcare providers are today being urged to participate in an online survey as part of the Independent Review of Costs of Providing Quality Childcare.
This Independent Review - which was announced by Minister Zappone last autumn – is a Programme for Government commitment.
The Review, which is being undertaken by Crowe Horwath on behalf of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, seeks to:
· Analyse the current costs of providing childcare in Ireland and factors that impact on those costs;
· Develop a model of the unit cost/costs of providing childcare that allows analysis of policy changes and variation in cost-drivers, including the potential impact of increased professionalisation; and
· Provide an objective, high level market analysis of the childcare sector in Ireland, including analysis of fee levels charged to parents.
The results from this survey of childcare providers will feed into the development of a cost model and cost calculator for childcare provision. Importantly, the results will also inform the Estimates Process for Budget 2019 and for subsequent budgets.
Speaking about the Review, Minister Zappone urged childcare providers to take part.
“This Review represents a key milestone in the on-going reformation of childcare in Ireland.
The results of this Review will help to further advance my ambition of building an accessible, affordable, quality childcare system, which will last for generations.
To deliver on this ambition, we need a childcare funding system where childcare providers are funded on a fair and sustainable basis and where the genuine concerns over pay and conditions in the sector can be addressed.
The Independent Review of Costs offers us a unique opportunity to change our approach to, and levels of, childcare funding.
I am urging childcare providers to engage honestly and openly through this confidential survey.
A good response rate will be critical to ensure the credibility of the survey findings to bring about needed change”.
The survey runs from 27 March until 12 April. For further information, contact Crowe Horwath at (01) 448 2200.
Minister Zappone announces change in recruitment policy for future Tusla Early Years Inspectors
The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone has today (Friday 2nd February, 2018) announced that the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, Tusla – the Child and Family Agency and the INMO (representing Public Health Nurses) have reached an agreement at the Labour Court regarding the future recruitment of Early Years Inspectors within Tusla. Tusla is responsible for inspecting pre-schools, play groups, day nursery, crèches, day-care and similar services which cater for children aged 0-6 years.
To date, EY Inspector positions have required candidates to be registered as a Public Health Nurse and hold a QQI Level 9 qualification (Masters Level). Changes to the Early Years Care and Education sector in recent years and the increasing professionalisation of that workforce had led to calls for a broadening of eligibility to the post of Early Years Inspector. The recent Labour Court recommendation will allow various professions to apply for these posts, including for the first time graduates from Early Years Care and Education, as well as candidates with suitable qualifications in social care, social work, psychology and education. 20% of the childcare workforce now holds a degree.
Minister Zappone welcomed the Labour Court recommendation saying:-
“This development reflects the on-going professionalisation of the Early Years sector. The broadening of criteria for the recruitment of Inspectors will complement and strengthen the great work that Tusla’s Early Years Inspectorate has been progressing in recent years. The last 18 months has seen massive steps forward in our goal to transform childcare in Ireland. I welcome the recommendation of the Labour Court and recognise that it marks another milestone in the professionalisation of the sector and the development of high quality, accessible services for children and families.”
Minister Zappone secured an increase of 7% in capitation to providers of the free pre-school scheme or ECCE in the recent budget, which commences this September. Further increases are available for services that complete training as part of the Minister’s initiative to make childcare services more accessible to children with disabilities (AIM). An Independent Review into the Cost of Delivery of Quality Childcare is currently underway by Crowe Howarth.
Momentum maintained on Affordable Childcare Childcare Support Bill on Dáil Order Paper for Spring Legislative Programme
Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone today (Tuesday, 16th January) welcomed the publication of the Government's Spring Legislative Programme 2018. In particular, she noted that the Childcare Support Bill 2017 is listed on the Dáil Order Paper and emphasised her commitment to maintaining momentum on this vital legislation.
The Childcare Support Bill 2017 was published in December 2017 and is an essential element in the continuing development of the Affordable Childcare Scheme, which will provide a new approach to supporting affordable access to quality childcare in Ireland.
Once launched, the Affordable Childcare Scheme will provide a new system of financial support to help reduce the cost of childcare for parents. Through this, it aims to improve access; assist families to return to work and training, reduce child poverty and improve outcomes for children.
Speaking about the launch of the legislative programme, Minister Zappone noted that:
“The Childcare Support Bill builds on a lot of initiatives already delivered over the past eighteen months as we strive, step by step, to transform one of the most expensive childcare systems in the world into the best. Over the past two budgets I have successfully secured an increase in the State's investment in early years by an unprecedented 80%.
Right now the families of over 66,000 children are already benefitting from the additional financial childcare supports which were introduced last September, the innovative Access and Inclusion Model for children with disabilities is up and running and free pre-school education for all 3-year olds has been extended to two years from next September.
We have also ended decades of uncertainty by commencing mandatory reporting as part of the full roll out of the Children First Act 2015. These important initiatives are child centred, progressive and will leave a tangible legacy for our children and our society for years to come ."
Childcare Support Bill published
Bill will underpin the new Affordable Childcare Scheme
Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr Katherine Zappone hails Childcare Support Billas “a cornerstone for our radical new approach to childcare”
The Childcare Support Bill 2017 has been published and will proceed through the Houses of the Oireachtas in the coming weeks. The bill is an essential element in development of the Affordable Childcare Scheme, which will provide a new approach to supporting affordable access to quality childcare in Ireland.
Once launched, the Affordable Childcare Scheme will provide financial support to help reduce the cost of childcare for parents. Through this, it aims to improve access; assist families to return to work and training; reduce child poverty; and improve outcomes for children.
“The ambition of this project is huge in scale but is of vital importance to families throughout the country. The publication of the Childcare Support Bill represents a cornerstone for our radical new approach to childcare; changes that will not only benefit families now but also future generations” said Minister Zappone.
“The publication of the bill builds on a lot of initiatives already delivered this year as we strive, step by step, to transform one of the most expensive childcare systems in the world into the best. To date additional financial childcare supports have been delivered to the families of over 64,000 children, the innovative Access and Inclusion Model for children with disabilities is up and running and free pre-school education for all 3-year olds has been extended to two years from next September.”
In addition to the Childcare Support Bill, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs also today published a Regulatory Impact Analysis of the Affordable Childcare Scheme.
Full details of the Childcare Support Bill, the Policy Paper and the Regulatory Impact Analysis on the Affordable Childcare Scheme can be found by visiting www.dcya.gov.ie or www.affordablechildcare.ie/nextsteps
The Childcare Support Bill will now proceed through the Houses of the Oireachtas over the coming months. At the same time, preparatory work is continuing apace on the other major elements of the scheme, such as the development of ICT and administrative systems.
Early Years and School Age Capital 2017 Returns
Please be advised, all outstanding EYC and SAC capital returns must be submitted to Pobal by the 30th of December 2017.
Any returns not submitted by that date WILL NOT receive the final 10% of the grant.
Services that do not submit returns will be subject to a funding de-commital and risk having to return the 90% of the grant that has already been paid.
Consultation on the Draft Quality and Regulatory Framework (QRF)
The role of the Early Years Inspectorate is to promote and monitor the quality, safety and appropriate care of children by robust inspection of the sector. In order to support service providers we have been engaged in a process to develop a Quality and Regulatory Framework that sets out the requirements for compliance under the 2016 Early Years Regulations.
The Early Year’s Inspectorate is now inviting all interested parties to give their feedback on this draft of the QRF. The purpose of this consultation is
a) to provide an opportunity for all stakeholders to give their views
b) to understand any potential concerns or challenges emerging
c) to identify potential training and other needs arising.
The questionnaire opens on Thursday 30th November and will close on Monday the 15th January 2018
Please click HERE to access the survey and further information from Tulsa.
Postponing the commencement of minimum qualification requirement for pre-schools
Prior to the introduction of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme in 2010, there was no minimum qualification for staff working in the pre-school sector. Under the ECCE programme, all pre-school leaders were required to hold a Level 5 qualification. In addition, pre-school services could qualify for a higher capitation rate where all the pre-school leaders, in the ECCE room, held a Level 7 qualification, and all the pre-school assistants held a Level 5. This represented a major step forward in improving the quality of early years services.
When the Early Years Quality Agenda was introduced in 2013, in order to improve quality in pre-school services, one of the items to be progressed was the introduction of a requirement that all staff working with children in pre-school services should hold a qualification in early childhood care and education at a minimum of Level 5 on the National Qualifications Framework or equivalent and that Pre-school leaders in ECCE services would be required to hold a minimum Level 6 qualification, or equivalent. These requirements were to be introduced with effect from September 2015 following the publication of new Childcare Regulations.
In order to support existing childcare staff to achieve the minimum qualifications, the Government introduced the Learner Fund. €3m was provided under this Fund and more than 2,500 staff have completed or are currently completing training to allow them to meet the minimum requirements.
Despite this investment, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs has received feedback that the commencement of the qualification requirement in September 2015 would pose a number of challenges, for the childcare sector.
- Some staff who availed of the Learner Fund will not have completed their training by September 2015 and would not, therefore, meet the qualification requirement. (It is acknowledged that the completion of the eight components required to achieve a major award, at the same time as working in a fulltime job in childcare, is not easy. It is also acknowledged that many people found it difficult to access the necessary training in their local areas.)
- The Department has been alerted to the fact that a number of staff did not avail of the Learner Fund because they assumed – or were incorrectly advised – that they already met the qualification requirement.
- More established professions have regulators who hold lists of approved qualifications. The absence of an official list of approved qualifications for Early Years means that staff – and their employers – cannot easily obtain assurance that the qualifications that they hold will meet the minimum requirements.
- The absence of this list would also create difficulties for the Early Years Inspectorate who will be charged with inspection of services under the new Childcare Regulations, including staff qualifications.
- Some community-based services rely on Community Employment workers as core staff within the service staff : child ratios, and these services would face issues of sustainability if these workers were to become supernumerary and they needed to employ more qualified staff.
As the proposed September deadline approaches, the Minister and the Department has taken note of the concerns expressed surrounding the imposition of the minimum qualification requirement from September 2015, particularly the fact that meeting this deadline has proved difficult for many learners and training providers. It is therefore proposed to postpone the commencement of this requirement for a period of 12 months, that is, until September 2016.
The Minister is aware that the introduction of minimum qualification requirements for childcare staff was welcomed by people working in the sector, as well as by parents, as an indication of the Government’s commitment to improving quality in pre-school services, and that any postponement in commencing the minimum qualification requirements will create disappointment. However, the Minister would point to major progress that has been made in improving qualifications in the sector and he remains committed to further improving quality, and to ensuring that everyone working with pre-school children holds a minimum qualification. The Quality Agenda continues to be progressed. However, it is important to make absolutely certain that all childcare staff are given the opportunity to assess their qualification levels and, if necessary to seek the appropriate training in order to up-skill.
The Department has commenced discussions with the Department of Education and Skills and with Pobal regarding the development of a database of recognised qualifications, for use by the sector and by the Inspectorate. The Department aims for this to be in place by the end of the year and it will represent a major resource for potential students, employers and the Tusla Inspectorate. The Department will also work closely with the Department of Social Protection and community providers to agree a way forward for the Community Employment workers in the sector.
The new Childcare Regulations which are being prepared will include the minimum qualification requirements as mandatory for all new services seeking to register with the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) following the commencement of the Regulations, but will provide for a 12 month postponement of the requirements for existing services.
Similarly, the ECCE contract for any new services applying to participate in programme for the first time from September 2015 will stipulate that all childcare staff must meet the minimum qualification requirements, and all pre-school leaders must hold a Level 6 qualification. Existing services participating in the ECCE Programme prior to 2015 will be provided a 12 month postponement for this requirement, although we will require evidence that
- the pre-school leader is enrolled and engaged in training to meet the Level 6 qualification.
- the pre-school assistants are enrolled and engaged in training to meet the Level 5 qualification or hold a signed grandfathering declaration form.
It is acknowledged that the sector had been expecting the minimum qualification requirement to be in place by September 2015, and we apologise that the announcement of the postponement of this requirement is coming at this stage. However, we believe that this postponement is necessary to ensure that all the staff in the sector are clear on the requirements, and that they have the opportunity to achieve the necessary qualifications (if they have not already done so) in order to remain working in the sector. We believe that this would not be the case if we maintain the September 2015 deadline.
We would like to emphasise again the Minister’s and the Department’s commitment to progressing the Early Years Quality Agenda. We support the ongoing professionalism of the sector, and are anxious to include those people who have not yet completed their training. The decision to postpone the commencement of the qualifications requirement is practical in the context of developing a high quality and sustainable sector, which will be in the best interests of children in the long term.
Qualification requirements under the new Childcare Regulations:
The new Childcare Regulations which are being prepared will include the minimum qualification requirements as mandatory for all new services seeking to register with the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) following the commencement of the Regulations, but will provide for a 12 month postponement of the requirements for existing services.
Qualification requirements under the ECCE Programme
The ECCE contract for any new services applying to participate in programme for the first time from September 2015 will stipulate that all childcare staff must meet the minimum qualification requirements, and all pre-school leaders must hold a Level 6 qualification. Existing services participating in the ECCE Programme prior to 2015 will be provided a 12 month postponement for this requirement, although we will require evidence that:
- the pre-school leader is enrolled and engaged in training to meet the Level 6 qualification.
- the pre-school assistants are enrolled and engaged in training to meet the Level 5 qualification or hold a signed grandfathering declaration form.
Early Years Policies and Programmes
Department of Children and Youth Affairs
Sept 2016: Grandfathering Declaration regarding Qualification Requirements for Early Years Services
From September 2016, all staff in early years services will need to have a full Level 5 Childcare qualification, and all Preschool (ECCE) Room Leaders will need a full Level 6 Childcare qualification.
Exemptions There are some people who have been working with children for many years and who wish to be exempted from the new qualification requirements. As the purpose of up-skilling is to boost quality in the best interests of children, it is only possible to do this in a very limited way.
The Minister has agreed to waive the minimum Level 5 requirement for a small number of staff who will be leaving the sector within the next 7 years. Individuals who expect to retire between September 2015 and September 2021 will not be required to meet the new qualification levels. If you will be due to retire in the coming years, and do not therefore wish to embark on a Level 5 course, you can sign a ‘Grandfathering Declaration’ with your local CCC. This offers a temporary exemption from having to have the Level 5 qualification, and is intended for those who will be retiring soon. Please note that this exemption only applies to the Level 5 qualification requirement and not to the Level 6 requirement.
Please contact Offaly County Childcare Committee if you are planning to retire in the coming years (between September 2015 and September 2021) and do not therefore wish to embark on a Level 5 course.
Early Years Inspectorate Update
In 2014, Tusla, The Child and Family Agency commissioned a Report on the Quality of Pre-School Services. The report indicated that most pre-school services are compliant, most of the time, with three quarters of all regulatory requirements inspected as compliant with the Pre-School Regulations (2006). However, the analysis of inspection reports clearly identified where improvements must be made. Significant levels of 'non-compliance' were identified in relation to Governance (Regulations 8,9,14 & 16), Welfare (Regulation 5) and Safety (Regulations 6,27,28 & 30).
All pre-school services in Ireland are required to strive for full compliance across all Pre-School Regulations, however it is accepted that there are areas which require greater focus and attention. As a result, the Child & Family Agency has introduced a revised model of Pre-School Inspection. Commencing on 26th January 2015, the primary scope of pre-school inspection will be the areas identified as requiring improvement - Governance, Welfare and Safety.
The revised Inspection Tool and documentation can be downloaded from this website and all pre-school services are encouraged to review this documentation and evaluate their performance within these thematic areas. Please note, the full Pre-School Inspection format and the follow-up (review) Inspection format remains in place as required and appropriate.
Key Worker System
In an early years setting, it is good practice to have a Key Worker system in place. Although there is normally a team caring for the children, a 'Key Worker' should be designated to each child. Organising in this way, means that one practitioner has primary responsibility for gathering in-depth knowledge of the child, based on observations and interactions.
The Key Worker will foster close bonds with a small number of children in a way that large groups cannot easily do. These groups allow the key person to "tune into" children's play and their conversations, to really get to know the children in their group well. Children feel settled and happy and are more confident to explore and as a result become more capable learners.
Parents should be given the opportunity to have brief discussions about their child's development with the key worker and have an opportunity to talk through the child's records. The transition from home to service can be a big step for children of all ages but that transition is made much easier with the help of a Key Worker.
If you require support with introducing a Key Worker System, please contact Ruth in the office on 057-9135878.
Early Years Strategy
Ireland's First Early Years Strategy is being developed. It will focus on the lives of our youngest children and how we as a society can improve them, particularly through the provision of universal services. The Strategy will be written in the context of the Children and Young Peoples Policy Framework which will set out objectives, principles and outcomes that will underpin the age cohort or other strategies that are developed in relation to children. While we know from the Growing Up in Ireland longitudinal study and other research that in general Irish children are happy, are engaged in society and have friends, there are things that we can do to improve their experiences, helping them to become resilient, self-confident and engaged adults and citizens. We can also support parents to help their children learn and develop. There are also children whose lives are not happy and who grow up in circumstances that disadvantage them throughout their lives. The Early Years Strategy will, therefore, set out plans to address a range of issues that affect young children.
‘Right from the Start’, is the report of the Expert Advisory Group established to make recommendations for Ireland’s first-ever Early Years Strategy which is currently being prepared by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.
At the launch in 2013, Minister Fitzgerald spoke of the importance of early intervention: “I have consistently highlighted the importance of investing and supporting quality interventions in the early years of children’s lives. In Ireland, we have so much to gain from early intervention in seeking to address major challenges and to interrupt both current and future crises. If we want to improve literacy and numeracy, which is critical; then we must start early. If we want to disrupt the crisis of childhood obesity – a quarter of our three years are overweight or obese - Then we must start early. Put simply: early intervention works; the early years matter.”
Welcoming and accepting the report, the Minister stated: “By setting out such a comprehensive range of recommendations for the continuum of service and support for Irelands youngest children and their families, from early childhood health, to supporting parents to ensuring quality in early years provision; this report brings a much needed focus to areas of policy which for too long were discounted and undervalued.” The Minister said that the high quality of the Report will provide a very strong foundation for finalisation of a robust and meaningful strategy to serve our youngest children and their families well over the coming years. The Minister acknowledged that: “This report provides for the first time, a strategic approach to the development of Ireland early years; not just for now, not for just for this budget, not just for this Government. This is a strategic approach for years to come. I welcome the incremental approach set out in the report. Additional funding and major new programmes will not be rolled out overnight. A multi-annual approach is what is required; and with it’s ‘five peaks over five years’ this report very significantly set out the destinations for a multi-annual roadmap”.
Under the Childcare (Pre-School Services) Regulations 2006, all childcare providers and HSE notified child-minders must avail of Garda Vetting for all staff, CE Scheme participants, TÚS participants, volunteers and students over 18 years of age. There must be evidence of this on file in the childcare premises such as the returned certificate advising of the outcome of the Garda Vetting process. This is a key element in ensuring children within services are protected and an important part of ensuring a quality service.
Article 8 (2c) of the Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations 2006 states: ‘Any person carrying on a pre-school service is required to ensure appropriate vetting of all staff, students and volunteers who have access to a child -
(a) by reference to past employer references in particular the most recent employer reference, in respect of all staff, and
(b) by reference to references from reputable sources, in respect of all students and volunteers, and
(c) by acquiring Garda vetting from An Garda Síochána when An Garda Síochána have set down procedures to make such vetting available, and
(d) in circumstances where Garda vetting is not available for staff, students and volunteers who have lived outside the jurisdiction, by ensuring that these persons provide the necessary police vetting from other police authorities.
Section 8 (3) Such vetting procedures shall be carried out prior to any person being appointed or assigned or being allowed access to a child in the pre-school service.
Good practice would suggest that existing staff should be Garda Vetted every five years. The development of appropriate policies in relation to recruitment, child protection, training, garda vetting and reference checking of staff and volunteers within the service is paramount to ensuring the protection and welfare of children in the care of the service and in providing quality childcare.