Early Childhood Education and Care – a hopeful sector let down by Government

28 January 2021

Ivana Bacik

Speaking after the launch of research by SIPTU’s Big Start Campaign, Labour Spokesperson for Children, Senator Ivana Bacik has said,

“’We are a sector that is full of hope, but we are continually let down with every budget’. The words of union activist Eilish Balfe ring true to the experiences of early years professionals published in a survey by SIPTU’s Big Start Campaign today.

“93% of early years professionals who responded to the survey said that they will leave the sector within five years if there is no change in their pay and conditions, while 38% are already actively seeking work in another sector. That equates to approximately 10000 of the 26,500 people currently employed in creches and montessoris across the State. I commend SIPTU and Dr. Amy Greer Murphy for undertaking this important research to highlight the endemic problems faced by Early Childhood and Education and Care professionals.

“The State and economy are heavily reliant on the vital work of the sector, but it is no coincidence that this undervalued workforce is 98% comprised of women. Over decades, successive governments have failed to take responsibility for a national childcare policy and this has resulted in the emergence of such a piecemeal, laissez-faire childcare system. Childcare costs have risen despite early-childhood care and education scheme subsidies, and yet, despite this increased investment, the wages of many workers have actually gone down.

“Hands-off childcare policies are failing parents, staff, providers and children. Apart from being ethically wrong, the low levels of pay, lack of paid sick leave or a payscale for professionals, precarity in the sector and insufficient State support are not conducive to providing the high-quality early-years education that is so vital for our children’s development. Childcare should be seen as an integral part of a State-funded education service; not just a private optional add-on for parents with higher incomes.

“I encourage all workers in the sector to join SIPTU to demand better pay and conditions and I urge the Minister for Children to engage with the Big Start Campaign without delay to begin to address the shocking findings of this survey.”