We need to pay childcare staff properly without pushing up fees for parents.
I believe a solution needs to be found that will ensure childcare staff are paid a living wage without pushing up fees for parents.
This is a sector that is experiencing real difficulties. We saw what happened in December when providers faced a hike in insurance premiums on top of ongoing problem in recruiting and retaining staff due to the inability of the sector to pay a living wage to staff.
Before Christmas I facilitated a delegation of Connacht providers to meet with Minister for Children Katherine Zappone, on foot of a Dáil question that I had tabled last May (attached).
At that meeting a number of issues were raised in terms of financial support and the need to ensure that staff are paid properly.
Many childcare providers are struggling to recruit staff because of the pay they can offer and this is unsurprising when you consider one situation where it was highlighted to me that an individual qualified both as a beautician and as a childcare practitioner could earn more painting nails than educating our pre-school children. That is fundamentally wrong.
We need to ensure that proper pay scales are put in place for those providing this vital service right across the country. If I am re-elected I will continue support the childcare sector.
Tuesday, 28 May 2019
Childcare Services Staff
Denis Naughten (Roscommon-Galway, Independent)
- To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the steps she is taking to assist with improvements in the pay and conditions of childcare staff; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22322/19]
Katherine Zappone (Dublin South West, Independent)
I have been unequivocal in my support for better pay and conditions for staff in Early Learning and Care services. Early Learning and Care practitioners play a critical role in supporting young children’s early learning and development and in providing a safe and caring environment. They deserve to be recognised, valued and respected for this.
While my Department funds a wide range of initiatives to support the quality, affordability and accessibility of early learning and care and school age childcare services, the State is not the employer of staff in this sector and cannot set wage levels. The large majority of Early Learning and Care settings are private businesses (74% according to the most recent figures from Pobal), with the remainder being independent, community-based, not for profit organisations (26%).
I have repeatedly called for the Early Learning and Care sector to pursue a Sectoral Employment Order, which offers a viable mechanism to establish appropriate wage levels. As the Deputy will be aware, neither I nor my officials can initiate a Sectoral Employment Order, but my Department will readily co-operate with such a process, if and when it is underway.
My Department has also supported a range of measures to improve pay and conditions using the tools available. These include the 117% increase in investment over the last 4 budgets that has supported services to operate at optimal capacity and has provided additional capitation for early learning and care programmes, including a 7% rise in September 2018 in the ECCE capitation rate. Measures also include the introduction for the first time of an annual Programme Support Payment to recognise the administrative roles that services play; this totals €21.4m in 2019. I have also continued to provide a higher rate of capitation payment for graduate-led pre-school rooms, to encourage the attraction and retention of Early Learning and Care graduates, and in 2017 I introduced a higher capitation payment for services that employ a qualified Inclusion Coordinator as part of the AIM programme. In addition, last year I introduced a pilot measure for funding services whose staff take part in continuing professional development, and I am extending the pilot this year to include the new ‘Aistear and Play’ CPD programme implemented by Better Start. I hope to build on this pilot further over the years to come, following an evaluation.
I have encouraged providers to use such additional funding to support, wherever possible, improved pay and conditions of the hard-working frontline staff that make such a lasting difference to children’s lives.
The 2018 sector profile published by Pobal showed an increase in the average wage in the sector from €11.93 per hour in 2017 to €12.17 in 2018, but it is clear that there is a long way to go before staff have the wages and working conditions ( including full time , full year contracts) that reflect the importance of the work they do.
First 5, the Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and Families, includes commitments to move to a graduate-led workforce, with at least 50% of staff holding an appropriate degree-level qualification by 2028, and to raise the profile of careers in Early Learning and Care (and school-age childcare). Work will commence shortly on preparing a Workforce Development Plan, which will set out the actions required over the next 10 years to achieve these commitments in First 5.