Widespread public support for increased investment in childcare.

Early Childhood Ireland has released its first ever Childcare Barometer, revealing widespread public support for a more progressive childcare system in Ireland.

The Barometer, which seeks to track public attitudes to early years care and education, is based on a nationwide RedC Research poll of 1,004 adults conducted between 18 and 25 January 2018. It found:

  • 75% of respondents felt the education of children under 5 is just as important as the education of children over 5;
  • 69% felt that parents should be financially supported to stay at home with their child for the first year of the child’s life;
  • 65% felt childcare should, similarly to primary education, be available free to all children;
  • 57% felt that parents should only pay for childcare in line with their overall income, with only 23% feeling that parents should be fully responsible for the cost of childcare.

 

The Early Childhood Ireland-RedC poll also found strong levels of support for greater recognition of and pay for sector staff:

  • 56% of respondents felt that staff working in childcare centres are qualified professionals like teachers, nurses, and others;
  • Only 24% of respondents felt that the average wage paid to childcare staff, which in 2016/17 amounted to around €11.93, reflected the value of that work.

Notably, the poll shows a broad consensus across region, age, and occupation.

 

The Barometer’s publication comes just three months after an EU Social Justice Index ranked Ireland lowest among 22 EU Member States for investment in early years care and education. Ireland currently invests about 0.1% of GDP in early years, significantly below the EU average of 0.8%.

Commenting, Frances Byrne, Director of Policy and Advocacy with Early Childhood Ireland, said, ‘Our first nationwide Childcare Barometer shows widespread public support for a more progressive approach to childcare in Ireland. There is a clear consensus on the importance of the early years care and education for children and families, and the need to ensure that providers and parents receive robust supports from Government.’

Ms. Byrne continued, ‘Early Childhood Ireland has long advocated for paid parental leave, stronger supports for staff, and greater funding for the early years sector. Substantially increased investment is needed to bring Ireland in line with the UNICEF international benchmark of 1% of GDP. The Barometer shows a clear public mandate for Government to act on these issues.’

Ms. Byrne concluded, ‘The Childcare Support Bill currently before the Dáil is an important step forward for the early years sector. However, several significant challenges remain, including recruitment challenges, low pay, and low funding support levels. The Barometer underlines a broad public desire for meaningful and urgent action on these issues. These are, in turn, integral to the delivery of a childcare system that provides quality for children, affordability for parents, and sustainability for providers.’

 

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