Fifth of settings lack staff in Ireland

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

High staff turnover, fewer childcare places and growing waiting lists characterise the current state of the Irish childcare sector, finds a new report.

According to ‘2016/2017 Early Years Sector Profile’, published last week by not-for-profit company Pobal for the Irish Government, 21 per cent of settings reported having at least one staff vacancy.

This compares with a recent survey showing nearly half of childcare settings in England lacking staff.

There are 24,000 staff in the Irish childcare sector. However, in the 12 months prior to May, there was an increase in annual staff turnover.

Comparing the profile findings to those of a survey of Irish community and voluntary sector nurseries in 2015, annual staff turnover has more than tripled from 8.2 per cent to 28.2 per cent over a year.

Half of all childcare staff work part-time, while two in five work seasonal contracts (38-week contracts).

The average qualification level has increased, with 92 per cent qualified to NFQ Level 5 (equivalent to English and Welsh Level 3) – the minimum requirement, and 63 per cent to level 6.

However, salaries are still low, with early years assistants earning an average of €10.88 per hour (£9.59).

Childcare places

In total, there are estimated to be 186,190 children attending early years services across Ireland – a nine per cent increase on the previous year. Two in three children are aged between three and six.

The number of children taking up government-funded places has also has risen to over 147,000 in the last 12 months.

However, the profile also shows that the number of children on waiting lists increased in the past year, while the number of vacant childcare places fell.

The number of children on a waiting list - 16,296 -  is higher than the number of vacant places. This is a reversal of what was reported last year.

Almost one third of services (31 per cent) said they are planning to increase capacity in the future.

The profile also shows for the first time in five years, the cost of a full-time childcare place has increased nationally by just over €7 to €174.16 a week.

'Crisis'

Dr Mary Moloney, lecturer at Mary Immaculate College and chairperson of Pedagogy, Learning and Education (PLÉ), an association that represents childcare graduates, said, ‘The statistics relating to staffing, including annual turnover, wages and the number with a degree, are pretty disheartening.

‘When you combine all of these factors, it is evident that the sector is in crisis, and that government schemes are not having an impact on staff terms and conditions of employment. Considerable investment is urgently required if we are to ensure a living wage as a start for those working with young children, and stem the haemorrhaging of staff from the sector.’

  • The survey is based upon survey responses from 3,707 services, 84 per cent of all childcare facilities in the country, in May and information from the Childcare ICT system (PIP).

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