Pictured today following their meeting: Anna Shakespeare, CEO of Pobal; Fergal Lynch, Secretary General Department of Children and Youth Affairs; Minister Zappone; Dr Harold Hislop, Department of Education and Skills Chief Inspector; Bernard Gloster, CEO of Tusla.
Following a meeting between the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr. Katherine Zappone TD, Anna Shakespeare, CEO of Pobal, Bernard Gloster, CEO of Tusla, and Dr Harold Hislop, the Department of Education and Skills Chief Inspector, the Minister outlined a number of measures to support Childcare Providers in the short term.
These actions cover:
· Addressing the information overload from the different agencies who communicate with Providers;
· Providing a better customer service to Providers
· Ironing out early stage challenges with the new National Childcare Scheme; and
· Supporting Providers in the regulatory environment.
Speaking following the meeting, Minister Zappone said: “There has been a huge increase in investment and in capacity in the Childcare sector in the past 5 years. This is good news but I think it is fair to acknowledge that the system has been challenged in keeping up with this development of the sector. We all agree that there is a need to examine how the system supports the sector.
“This is why we have agreed a number of short-term measures which aim to reduce the burden on Providers.
“When I met the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs on 18th December, I told them that my Department, Pobal and Tusla would work together in 2020 to simplify and streamline procedures so that those in the sector are not over-burdened with administration. Today, we have examined ways that we can do this.
“We have identified ways we can work together to streamline and improve our communications and offer better supports to providers. We have agreed a number of measures which we anticipate will alleviate some of the burden on the childcare sector.
“Key measures which we have agreed today:
· The Minister will establish a National Stakeholder Consultative Forum in which the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, the Department of Education and Skills, Pobal and Tusla will work directly with the Early Years Sector. They will consult jointly and separately as required. The Forum will also have regional sub-groups.
· We are committed to providing clear, user friendly information for providers and parents from all agencies involved in the Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare (ELC & SAC) sector;
· We will co-ordinate routine communications on advisory and support matters from all agencies, so that providers get a single monthly bulletin with information from each agency ;
· We will coordinate supports for providers to assist with Registration and Re-registration processes.”
Speaking following the meeting, Anna Shakespeare, CEO of Pobal, commented: “Pobal is committed to the provision of accessible and quality childcare to all children and families. On a daily basis, Pobal engages with parents and families in contact with the National Childcare Scheme (NCS) Parent Support Centre. Similarly, we are actively engaged with Early Learning and Care and School-Age service providers in towns and communities throughout Ireland, and through our dedicated Early Years Provider Centre. We are acutely aware of the challenges impacting the sector. As the Scheme Administrator for NCS, we have seen significant changes over the last few months and we are determined to continue to support service providers and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to implement important developments for the benefit of children, parents and families into the future.”
Speaking following the meeting, Bernard Gloster, CEO of Tusla, said: “We welcome any opportunity to improve communications within the early years’ sector, and have undertaken a number of positive changes in recent months on this front. Ultimately, the regulation of early years’ services aims to ensure that children have quality early years’ experiences in Tusla registered services. The engagement from service providers with the recent re-registration process has shown their ongoing commitment to compliance in this sector, which is vital to many aspects of Irish life for children and their parents.”
Harold Hislop, Chief Inspector of Early Years Education said: “We have developed our approach to inspection through close collaboration with practitioners and childcare professionals. We will participate enthusiastically in the Stakeholder Forum that the Minister will establish and we look forward to collaborating with its members.”
The over-riding priority of the Minister, Departments and Agencies is that children and their families and the providers that educate and take care of them remain at the heart of everything we do.