The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr. Katherine Zappone TD, has announced the formal initiation of a project to develop a new Funding Model for Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare and the establishment of an Expert Group to lead this work.
First 5 Strategy Outline:
- The Expert Group will lead a process of in-depth analysis of evidence and an inclusive consultation and engagement process to take account of the voices of providers, parents and other stakeholders within the sector.
- Michael Scanlan, former Secretary General of the Department of Health and Children, has been appointed as Chair to the group.
- First 5 strategy pledges to build on the 117% increase in investment, made over the last four budgets, in order to make further progress towards average OECD levels of investment. The new Funding Model will ensure that the State leverages maximum value from that investment.
Increased investment by 117%
“The Early Learning and Care sector is extremely important for hundreds of thousands of families. The 4,500 services in the sector make a massive contribution to children’s early development, particularly for more vulnerable children; they allow parents to participate in the workforce; and they are key to shaping our future economy and society”.
“Whilst we have increased investment by 117% over the last four budgets, doubled the numbers of children benefiting from subsidies, doubled the number of places, doubled the free pre-school scheme, addressing affordability and accessibility and raising quality remain important issues. Government has committed to doubling investment again over the next 10 years and with this investment we should see further major improvements. But, the State must also take care that public money ensures that the fees charged to parents reflect true costs and a reasonable profit only, and that income is used in a reasonable manner to provide appropriate terms and conditions for staff in the sector. A range of initiatives are underway by my Department to address these and other issues, and, as part of that landscape of reform, a review of our funding model is critical.”
The Expert Group has been requested to examine the current model of funding, its effectiveness in delivering quality, affordable, sustainable and inclusive services and how additional resourcing can be delivered for the sector to achieve these objectives drawing on international practice in this area. The Expert Group will also design an inclusive consultation and engagement process to take account of the voices of providers, parents and other stakeholders within the sector. Their recommendations will be brought back to Government in due course for approval. The development of the new Funding Model advances a number of the key actions contained in First 5: A Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families(2019-2028).
Government’s First 5 strategy pledges to build on recent investment in order to make further progress towards average OECD levels of investment. A new Funding Model will be a crucial mechanism to ensure that the State leverages maximum value from that additional investment in terms of affordability for parents and the quality of service offered to children, complementing the transformation the new National Childcare Scheme will bring, and the existing ECCE scheme. It will also be informed by those running current services and aspiring to provide the best service to children and families.
The Expert Group will be independently chaired and will include national and international experts in Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare systems, funding and quality; economics; and relevant policy experts from the Government Departments which will be involved in implementing the new Funding Model. Michael Scanlan, former Secretary General of the Department of Health and Children, has been appointed as Chair to the group.
The remaining members are follows:
- Professor Edward Melhuish, Professor of Human Development at Oxford University and a highly renowned international research expert on quality in Early Learning and Care.
- Professor Eva Lloyd, Director of the International Centre for the Study of the Mixed Economy of Childcare and a Professor of Early Childhood, highly specialised in the niche field of funding of Early Learning and Care.
- Tove Mogstad Slinde, Senior Adviser in the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research in the Department of Kindergartens and Schools and former Chair of the OECD Network on Early Childhood Education and Care.
- Dr Tim Callan, former Research Professor at the ESRI and with significant experience in tax and welfare policy, financial incentives to work, labour supply, and income distribution.
- Dr Rory O’Donnell, former Director of the National Economic and Social Council leading analysis on a wide range of economic, social and environmental issues.
- Officials from the Departments of Children and Youth Affairs (Bernie McNally, Dr. Anne-Marie Brooks), Education and Skills and Public Expenditure and Reform.
Minister Zappone continued:
“I am delighted to have secured this group of highly renowned national and international experts. They are taking on an important and challenging task, to support my Department in developing additional ways to invest in Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare services in a way that will deliver better affordability for parents and better quality for children. I know that they are keen to consult with parents and providers and to have these discussions inform their recommendations. I am confident that the group will bring the full breadth and depth of their expertise to this task and l look forward to receiving their report in due course.”
The work of the group will be supported by a research partnership, a tender for which has recently been published, to deliver rigorous, evidence-based inputs to the group to allow them to explore and test various ideas.
The first meeting of the Expert Group will take place on 29th and 30th October 2019.