The Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration, Roderic O'Gorman TD, today announced a new programme of consultation on the future early learning and care and school-age childcare workforce and a future funding model for the sector.
In line with commitments in the First 5 strategy and commitments set out in the Programme for Government, the process to develop a Workforce Development Plan and to develop a new Funding Model commenced in 2019. Both reform initiatives will be informed by an inclusive consultation and engagement process, which begins today. Announcing the programme of consultation, Minister O’ Gorman said:
“I am delighted that work is steadily progressing on a Workforce Development Plan and a new Funding Model. Both are substantial reform initiatives committed to in the First 5 strategy and in the new Programme for Government. These reforms are necessary to ensure high quality, affordable and accessible services for children over the next decade.
“Although the original plans for consultation could not go ahead for public health reasons, we have found other ways to consult parents, providers, practitioners, and other stakeholders. I encourage all interested parties to take part in this consultation and to express their views on these important issues of future funding and the future workforce.
“I hope that this consultation can deliver a meaningful and lasting dialogue about these critical issues as we work to improve the early learning and care and school-age childcare sector for the benefit of children and families, providers, practitioners and wider society.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, original consultation plans, which included large county level or regional gatherings of providers, practitioners and parents were cancelled. However both the Funding Model Expert Group, and the Workforce Development Plan Steering Group and Stakeholder Group, remain committed to ensuring that their work is informed by the views of parents, providers, staff and other stakeholders within the sector. To this end, a new programme of consultation has been scheduled for the coming months.
Separate calls for submissions on the Workforce Development Plan and the new Funding Model are now open. All interested parties are invited to submit to each call using the links provided below. The closing date for submissions is 2 October 2020.
A national survey of households with children under 15 also gets underway this week. The survey, which is being undertaken by Ipsos MRBI, seeks to identify, from the point of view of parents/guardians, the key issues to be addressed in the development of the new funding model.
A series of thematic online consultation events with providers, practitioners, parents and other key stakeholders will take place over September and October. Further information on how to register for and participate in these events will be released in the coming weeks.
Call for Submissions:
Workforce Development Plan (English): Submit Here
Workforce Development Plan (Irish): Submit Here
Funding Model (English): Submit Here
Funding Model (Irish): Submit Here
State investment in early learning and care and school-age childcare has increased by 141% in the last five years. This funding has been used to remove barriers to access so that children can enrol and meaningfully participate in high-quality, more affordable early learning and care and school-age childcare. As a result of this funding, there has been a doubling in the number of children in receipt of State subsidies who are now enrolling in these services
First 5, A whole-of-government strategy for babies, young children and their families (2019-2028), was published in November 2018 and commits to major initiatives on family leave, children’s health services, parenting supports, child-friendly communities and early learning and care and school-age childcare services among a broad range of actions. The First 5 Implementation Plan, published in May 2019, describes the steps that will be taken in the initial implementation phase – from 2019 to 2021 and a First 5 Implementation Office has been established to monitor and report on implementation. Two key First 5 actions in relation to early learning and care and school-age childcare are:
- New Funding Model: First 5 commits to doubling investment in early learning and care and school-age childcare in order to make further progress towards average OECD levels of investment. A key vehicle to ensure that such significant additional investment delivers for children, families and the State will be a new funding model.
- Workforce Development Plan: First 5 commits to introduce a range of measures so that by 2028: all regulated childminders and school-age childcare staff will hold a minimum qualification; and a graduate-led early learning and care workforce, with at least 50% of staff working directly with children in centre-based settings and coordinators supporting the work of childminders, hold an appropriate degree-level qualification (with an initial target of 30% reached by 2021). First 5 commits to developing a Workforce Development Plan to support the achievement of these targets and raise the profile of careers in early learning and school-age childcare, establish a career framework and leadership development opportunities and will work towards building a more gender-balanced and diverse workforce.
Work on both commitments commenced in 2019.
- New Funding Model
An Expert Group to develop a new Funding Model for ELC and SAC was appointed in September 2019 to examine how additional public funding can be used to deliver higher quality, more affordable, more sustainable and more inclusive services. The Expert Group is independently chaired and includes national and international experts in ELC and SAC systems, funding and quality; economics; as well as relevant policy experts from the Departments of Children and Youth Affairs, Public Expenditure and Reform and Education and Skills. The Expert Group is supported by a Research Partner (Frontier Economics)
The Expert Group’s Terms of Reference are as follows:
- Agree a set of guiding principles to underpin the new Funding Model for Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare
- Review the existing approach to funding Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare services by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in terms of its alignment with the guiding principles as well as effectiveness in delivering on the policy objectives of quality, affordability, accessibility and contributing to addressing disadvantage
- Drawing on international evidence, identify and consider options on how additional funding for Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare can be structured to deliver on the guiding principles and above policy objectives
- Agree a final report including a proposed design for a new Funding Model, with accompanying costings, risk analysis and mitigation and phased implementation plan (with funding likely to become available on an incremental basis) to recommend to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and ultimately Government
- Workforce Development Plan (WDP)
The Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA), in collaboration with the Department of Education and Skills (DES) has committed to establishing a Workforce Development Plan for ELC and SAC sectors.
The WDP will set out plans to raise the profile of careers in the sector, to establish role profiles, career pathways, qualifications requirements, and CPD infrastructure, to raise the attractiveness of working in the sector, and to develop a more gender-balanced and diverse workforce. The WDP is being developed in two stages:
a) Preparation of a core report that sets out: a high-level vision for the ELC and SAC workforce for the period 2020-2028, and a pathway for achieving the commitments set out in First 5 in relation to development of the ELC and SAC workforce. The high-level vision should include the composition of the workforce in registered centre-based and home-based ELC and SAC settings, including composition by both qualification level and gender/diversity. It should also include occupational roles and career pathways for ELC and SAC (centre-based and home-based) practitioners working in the sector and in the support services for the sector (including inspection, mentoring and training roles); and relevant qualifications and knowledge/skills profiles that will achieve optimal ELC/SAC experiences for children.
b) Completion of a skills forecast setting out the projected demand and supply of ELC/SAC practitioners at different qualification levels over the period 2020-2028, to determine whether supply arrangements are adequate to meet demand. The skills forecast will use the model commissioned by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs, combined with analysis of future needs of the sector (supply and demand at different qualification levels), taking into account attrition and turnover in the workforce.
c) Making decisions in relation to: occupational roles within the ELC/SAC workforce, including in support services for the sector (e.g. inspection, mentoring and training roles), qualification requirements for those roles (over the lifetime of the WDP) and terminology to describe the roles; and minimum qualification requirements to be introduced (over the lifetime of the WDP) for (i) childminders and (ii) the SAC workforce.
d) Agreement on Terms of Reference and membership of a small number of working groups that during Stage 2 will develop detailed implementation plans in key areas of workforce development.
Stage 2 will involve completion of implementation plans by working groups to be specified in Stage 1. The working groups will be tasked with developing implementation plans in a limited number of key areas in which more detailed planning is required. While specification of the working groups will be determined by the Steering Group during Stage 1, the areas of activity in which more detailed implementation plans are likely to be needed include:
- Initial education / training;
- CPD infrastructure (including leadership development);
- Mechanisms for upskilling the workforce (including funding and incentivisation mechanisms);
- Terms and conditions of employment (recognising that the State is not the employer);
- Professional and qualifications recognition;
- Legislative/regulatory implications for change.
The Steering and Stakeholder Groups of the Workforce Development plan have met several times over the last year, and have considered a number of proposals regarding the objectives above. As part of the development of these proposals, feedback from the sector is vital. Childminding and School Age Childcare services took part in an extensive consultation in 2019 regarding the Childminding Action Plan and School Age Childcare Regulations respectively. This call for submissions contains a number of open questions in relation to the policy objectives of the WDP. Submissions received will be considered in the autumn as the WDP phase 1 report is developed.