Nearly 4,000 childcare services are signing new basic government funding deals that freeze fees from September last year

Nearly 4,000 childcare facilities (90 per cent) have signed new basic government funding contracts, meaning the fees charged to parents are unchanged from September last year.

The funding includes a childcare fee freeze for 200,000 families across the country and improved wages and conditions for around 25,000 childcare workers.

Children’s Secretary Roderic O’Gorman today unveiled Together for Better, the new funding model for early childhood education and childcare.

“No empty promises or buzzwords,” he said when announcing the new funding model for Early Learning Care (ELC) and School Age Children (SAC) providers.

The Together for Better funding model includes the new €221 million core funding program with 90 percent of services across the country – nearly 4,000 – having signed up for funding as of today.

“I know this will impact over 25,000 workers in this sector seeking pay increases and 200,000 children and their families who will benefit from greater affordability and quality of service.

“It has enabled pay increases for over 70 per cent of the Sector’s workforce and will significantly increase the Sector’s capacity to provide levels of care to families,” Secretary O’Gorman said at today’s launch.

Funding will require the enforcement of new wage rates under the new minimum rates negotiated by the Joint Labor Committee.

One of the most important conditions that childcare providers must meet in order to receive the subsidy is the parental price freeze on September 2021, which also means that services that were included in the previous fees will not be charged.

For example, if meals were included in the fee, these can no longer be billed individually.

This, Mr O’Gorman said, will result in improved affordability for parents by ensuring fees do not increase in this “inflationary environment”.

“So far, there have been some significant limitations to what this public funding has been able to achieve, particularly in relation to high parental fees and generally poor conditions for staff,” he said.

The Department for Children, Equality, Disability, Inclusion and Youth says this funding will enable investment in the sector to reach spending of at least €1 billion by 2028.

“Although we are well on the way to achieving this. But I want to emphasize that this is not the limit of my ambition for my public investment mission in this sector,” Secretary O’Gorman said.

Together for Better brings together three main elements: the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme, the National Childcare Scheme and Core Funding.

Core funding was first announced in the 2022 budget with a total annual allocation of €221 million and will be allocated largely on the basis of capacity, operating hours and age group of children.

According to the ministry, this funding model comes amid a record number of childcare providers increasing their hours of operation or the number of childcare places on offer.

This has led to a 261 percent increase in childcare providers requesting a “change of circumstances” on the Tusla registry compared to 2021 – this may include a change in hours of operation or the number of children.

The ministry also clarified that while some services will see increases in funding, none will see a decrease.

“I do not want any service to face financial sustainability issues and I am fully committed to working with such a service to support them in providing early childhood education and childcare for the common good,” Secretary O’Gorman said.

The Federation of Early Childhood Providers (FECP) has protested core funding three times in the past few months, which it says has left ECCE services without viability and funding.

Elaine Dunne, Chair of the FECP, commented on her reaction: “Today is a momentous day for the whole sector, we are all happy to see it. A day history will never forget.

“But the Government and Secretary O’Gorman need to address the ECCE cap for all children. The cap per capita should be raised to 76 euros per child, which would cost the government around 30 million euros.

“But that shouldn’t spoil today because today is really a huge step forward,” Ms Dunne told the Irish Independent. Nearly 4,000 childcare services are signing new basic government funding deals that freeze fees from September last year

Fry Electronics Team

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