The review, which will involve seven Government departments and look at investment into the country’s childcare and early education, is being led by the minister for children and youth affairs Dr James Reilly.
Currently, the state invests around €260 million per year into childcare. This includes the country’s free pre-school year, which benefits over 100,000 children.
The review will look at current key investment vehicles that support childcare and early education provision across all Government, departments, what childcare is available, - identifying best practice, and whether there are any gaps in provision.
It will also consider the affordability of childcare, how children’s’ outcomes can be improved, ways to support parents to care for their children and address issues of disadvantage and poverty.
As part of the review, a number of recommendations will be made on what should be a priority in terms of future investment.
Comment from minister?
News of the review follows a raft of measures to improve the quality of Ireland’s early childhood settings.
It comes after a RTE Prime Time investigation, broadcast in 2012, revealed inadequate care and mistreatment of children at some of the country’s crèches.
Ciairín Buis, director of Start Strong, said, ‘We absolutely need to reduce the high cost of childcare for parents and the fact that a plan is being put in place is very welcome. However we need a plan that will also benefit children.
‘Children only benefit from childcare if it’s of high quality. But we know from the RTE programme that the quality here is very variable. Any plan on childcare needs to address both affordability and quality.
She added, ‘We need a new model of childcare in this country. One that sees early years services as providing a public service and has the necessary investment from the Government.
‘Ireland spends comparatively very little on early years care and education. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average is 0.7 per cent of GDP compared to an Irish spend of less than 0.2 per cent.
‘As the economy begins to move out of recession now is the time for the Government to start increasing investment in our young children.’
Teresa Heeney, chief executive of Early Childhood Ireland, said, ‘Irish families are paying more than any of their European counterparts on early childhood education services and this must be addressed as a matter of urgency. Therefore, we welcome any initiative that highlights the need for increased investment in the early childhood education sector.
‘Early Childhood Ireland knows and the Government knows that not enough money is being spent in this sector by Government. This is in stark contrast to the huge amounts being paid out by parents every month.
‘Only quality early childhood education is worthwhile for children, families and society. Of critical importance will be addressing wage levels in this sector and rewarding fairly the commitment and qualifications of the early childhood educators working in this sector.
‘Any plans must be discussed with the early childhood education sector, who are at the coalface delivering services day in day out and for whom sustainability is a huge issue.
‘We must ensure that this working group is not simply pre-election spin.’