Senator Katherine Zappone chaired a public forum on childcare that was held in An Cosán on Wednesday, September 30th. A panel of early years experts attended the meeting to discuss Ireland's investment in childcare and the early years' sector ahead of Budget 2016, with feedback being offered by local parents and childcare professionals.
The panel included Teresa Heeney, CEO of Early Childhood Ireland, Dr Geraldine French, St. Patrick’s College, Maura McMahon, CEO of An Cosán, Aishling Kelly, Manager of Fledglings Early Years and Marlene McCormack of St Patrick’s College.
A number of crucial issues affecting children, parents and childcare workers in Ireland today were flagged and discussed at the meeting. Concerns were raised about the sustainability of the ECCE scheme for childcare providers and the lack of resources available to children in the scheme with special needs. The lack of full-time contracts and job security in the sector was also acknowledged, with many stressing the importance of professional development and upskilling for childcare workers.
Independent Senator Zappone called for greater financial and time investment in services for the sector to ensure that all children receive an equal start in life. The Senator stated:
“Early childhood is a crucial time for learning and development in everybody’s life. Creating a comprehensive Early Childhood Education Policy should be a national priority. We need ongoing professional gatherings like tonight in order to build momentum.
There is great potential to make positive choices for the children of this country and the professionals who educate and care for them. I believe that a political understanding of the sector just doesn’t seem to be getting through, and this must change.”