Childcare and early-years education

As parents we put our children first. Yet when it comes to Government investment, children are always last in line. This is why we have one of the most undeveloped childcare systems in the EU, why our pre-school services are so under-funded when compared with other developed countries, and why parents must still pay significant contributions for early years care and education.

Our children deserve a much better start in life and there is much evidence to suggest that if they get this, our economy and society will reap the rewards in the long run. The Social Democrats want to put children first by starting a multi-year programme of investment for children’s services, especially for very young children.

This programme would invest in the child’s early years by ensuring parents have the choice to stay at home in the first precious year of their child’s life through extended paid parental leave arrangements, and more flexible work options for parents. It would also help develop more affordable and higher quality childcare. Furthermore, it would also provide a significant boost to enterprise by giving many parents the choice of returning to work.

The Social Democrats would prioritise the following policies:

  • Extending paid parental leave (counting maternity benefit) to 36 weeks initially and to 52 weeks over three budgets.
  • We would supplement this with legislation to guarantee flexible work options for parents;

Significantly improving childcare through a range of measures including:

  • Investing in quality of service provision via higher capitation payments to childcare providers, and linking funding to increased quality.
  • Setting maximum fees for parents for childcare, ensuring public funding does not simply push up prices, and enabling all families to benefit, with higher quality incentivised;
  • Extending subsidised childcare places to lower-income families in all areas, through extension and reform of the Community Childcare Subvention;
  • Investing in educational supports for childcare workers;
  • Carrying out a full economic review of the cost of childcare based on quality standards, implementation of national curricula, and the introduction of a proper career structure for staff.

If you want to read more about how we can give Irish children a better start in life, download our full manifesto:

Building a Better Future (2016 – 2026)

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