Better working conditions recommended for early childcare staff

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Better working terms and conditions for early childcare workers, has been recommended by an Oireachtas Committee
Better working terms and conditions for early childcare workers, has been recommended by an Oireachtas Committee

LIMERICK TDs Jan O’Sullivan (Lab) and Tom Neville (FG) have recommended better working terms and conditions for early childcare workers as part of a major overhaul of the industry in the report published by the Oireachtas Children and Youth Affairs committee, that they sit on.

The committee published its Report on the Working Conditions of the Early Years Education and Care Sector 2017 this week and suggested that the industry receive timely boosts in support.

The report shines a light on the working conditions, training needs and pay scales of all those working in the early years sector and, highlights the major areas of concern currently facing the sector in both rural and urban services across all provinces. Meeting these challenges will be crucial to the sustainability of the sector.

In order to compile this report,  Rapporteur, Kathleen Funchion TD, held an extensive series of national outreach meetings with staff  working in the sector, with providers both community and private who serve in the sector, as well as several County Childcare Committee representatives.

There was also significant engagement with trade unions and their early years representatives, who are conducting on-going nation-wide campaigns relating to many of the issues raised throughout this report.

Amongst the recommendations made by the Former Education minister Jan O’Sullivan and new TD Tom Neville, together with four other TDs and four Senators, were;

• Introduce working terms and conditions on a par with the rest of the education system.

• Commission the development of a nationally agreed pay scale for the early years workforce linked to the Occupational Role Profiles that recognises qualifications, experience and length of service.

• Introduce a system of Recognition for Prior Learning (RPL) to recognise and reward the skills base developed by staff working in the sector over a number of years who require formally recognised qualifications.

• Reduce worker/child ratios from 1:11 to 1:9 – this would assist in early identification of problems and pay off in long run for the state.

Rapporteur Kathleen Funchion TD said, “There has been an ongoing failure to deliver childcare and early education that works for children, families, and those professionals who work in early years’ education. This report aims to provide practical solutions to some of the employment issues facing early childcare providers. The rationale behind the report was to examine a sector which is so crucial to children and their development in order to understand the concerns facing staff in these services and to explore how they could be addressed. In order to gain a full picture of this issue I examined employment conditions, wages and other challenges facing this sector and these aspects of the report should be of interest and value to other Committees given the issues they raise.”

“The report is the culmination of many months’ of meetings with stakeholders and industry professionals, all of whom emphasised the proven importance of early childhood education and care. It is vital that qualified staff are not forced out of the sector due to poor wages and a lack of training or development for those working with children under three years of age.”

Committee Chair, Alan Farrell TD also commented, “I welcome the publication of this report, which makes a number of logical recommendations as to how to improve working conditions for childcare professionals; simultaneously enhancing the lives of children across the country. I would like to commend the Committee, but in particular, Deputy Funchion for her work on this report, which I believe should be given serious consideration by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.”

The committee consists of; Lisa Chambers (Fianna Fáil); Tom Neville (Fine Gael); Kathleen Funchion (Sinn Fein); Donnacha O’Laoghaire (Sinn Féin); Jan O’Sullivan (Labour); Ann Rabbitte (Fianna Fáil).

Senators: Lorraine Clifford-Lee (Fianna Fáil); Máire Devine (Sinn Fein); Joan Freeman (Taoiseach Nominee); Catherine Noone (Fine Gael)

Read the full report here.