The Children’s Minister has unveiled a new funding model aimed at bringing “transformative change” to the childcare sector.
oderic O’Gorman said that Together for Better will provide a “sound framework” to improve the quality and affordability of childcare, and pay and conditions for workers.
It will incorporate the Government’s 221 million euro core funding scheme, as well as the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme and the National Childcare Scheme (NCS).
Mr O’Gorman said the model will bring about “transformative change to this vital sector”.
“Together for Better supports improved affordability for parents; better pay and conditions for staff; improved availability for families through increased capacity; and greater financial stability for service providers,” he said.
The Green Party TD added that it is the “first step towards significant further developments in the sector which will be introduced in the coming years”.
The Government plans to invest at least 1 billion euro in the new funding model by 2028.
Mr O’Gorman launched Together for Better on Thursday as the core funding scheme came into operation.
He said almost 4,000 childcare operators have signed up to the core funding model.
It means nine out of 10 Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School Age Childcare (SAC) providers have agreed to take part in the programme.
“I am delighted that 90% of services have chosen to come into partnership with the State by signing up,” he said.
It means childcare fees at those services will be frozen at 2021 rates.
Mr O’Gorman added: “This gives significant certainty to parents, and ensures that parents can enjoy the full benefit of future investments in the National Childcare Scheme, including the extension of the universal subsidy to children of all ages which came into effect in August, without the risk of increased State subsidies being absorbed by increased parental fees.”
The core funding model, which was first announced in the Budget last year, came into operation on Thursday in tandem with the start of Employment Regulation Orders (EROs) for the sector.
The EROs will mean improved pay for over 70% of workers in the sector, with specific recognition for different roles and qualifications, establishing a wage structure for staff.
“This historic achievement has been enabled by the investment in core funding,” Mr O’Gorman added.
The minister said there was “significant evidence” of capacity increasing within the sector.
“Record numbers of services have requested a change in circumstance on the Tusla register, primarily to increase the operating hours or number of child places being offered,” he said.
“Up to mid-August, there has been a 31% increase in change in circumstance applications from Early Learning and Care services and a 261% increase in change in circumstances for School-Age Childcare services compared to 2021.”
“Already all the indications are that it is achieving significant and welcome change in the sector in relation to affordability, quality and accessibility,” Mr O’Gorman added.