The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone today welcomed the recognition of significant progress made in areas including school-age childcare, childminding, and educational disadvantage in the 2020 Report Card by the Children’s Rights Alliance.
Minister Zappone recognises the Report Card plays an important role in highlighting how Government policy can best protect, support and care for our children.
Welcoming the report’s positive grade in relation to childcare, the Minister said:
“In the last five years, State investment in early learning and care and school-age childcare has increased by an unprecedented 141%. This funding has been used to remove barriers to access so that children can enrol and meaningfully participate in high-quality early learning and care and school-age childcare.
“First 5, a whole-of-government strategy for babies, young children and their families (2019-2028), sets out an ambitious programme of work across Government Departments to improve the experiences and outcomes of children in Ireland from birth to age 5 across all aspects of their lives in the coming ten years. As the Report Card acknowledges, particular achievements in the last year include the introduction of the National Childcare Scheme, the draft Childminding Action Plan and the School-Age Childcare Regulations.
“I welcome the very positive response to the new National Childcare Scheme – the introduction of this Scheme provides a robust, sustainable platform for future investment in childcare in Ireland. I have ensured that the Scheme is designed to be responsive to adjustments deemed necessary by Government. My Department will be monitoring the scheme closely to ensure it supports those most in need.”
With regard to the Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) service, the Minister welcomed the CRA’s support for the ongoing work of establishing the service. She shares the CRA’s view that law reform in this area has the potential to make a real impact to the lives of children. As noted by the CRA, it is now in the hands of the 33rd Dáil to ensure that the impetus is not lost and that priority is given to finalising legal reform in this area, and the Minister very much hopes that this will be the case.
Notwithstanding this progress, tackling issues around affordability, accessibility and quality provision of early learning and care remains a priority for the Department of Children & Youth Affairs. A number of important reform projects are underway to address these issues, including the development of a new Funding Model and a Workforce Development Plan.