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Child Care Services Staff

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Child Care Services Staff

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Senator


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Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone)

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Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone)

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Katherine Zappone

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Snippet Contents:

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1485, 1486 and 1495 together.
DCYA does not have a register for all staff in the Early Years (EY) sector, and can only provide figures regarding the number of active room leaders in ECCE Higher Capitation rooms, based on applications that have been received and processed.
It is difficult to measure the number of staff working in the EY sector who are potentially eligible for ECCE Higher Capitation, as eligibility does not directly correspond to uptake. It may be the case that individuals eligible for ECCE Higher Capitation are working in the sector but not availing of ECCE Higher Capitation, for various reasons to do the with function of the Early Years setting or their own working role. There may also be other reasons associated with non-compliance with the ECCE programme, such as not meeting adult:child ratios.
DCYA is also aware that some services have reduced numbers of children enrolling in ECCE this year, as they are instead availing of the expansion of CCS. As Higher Capitation is part of the ECCE programme and dependent on ECCE capitation as measured by enrollments, some services may have appropriately qualified staff for which they are not currently receiving ECCE Higher Capitation. DCYA is considering how best to put in place some mitigation for service providers who find themselves in this situation.
In the 2016/2017 programme year, the number of services in receipt of ECCE Higher Capitation was 1918. The 2017 / 2018 programme year is still in progress, but I am pleased to confirm that as of 15 December, less than half-way through the programme year, the number of services in receipt of ECCE Higher Capitation has increased on the year-end total for 2016/2017, to1935.  My officials are confident that this will increase further before year end.  For 2016 / 2017, 2946 individuals were recorded as being ECCE Higher Capitation room leaders. The figure for 2017/2018 thus far, as at December of 2017, is 2921. Again, this is expected to increase as the year progresses, and more children enter the ECCE programme in January and April. 
The ECCE Higher Capitation rate is paid in respect of an experienced practitioner who also holds full, relevant, degree level qualification.  In addition to the completed training, a graduate should have three years paid work experience in the Early Years sector. This work experience can be accrued at any time during the career of the individual and can be achieved, before, during or after their qualification. Cumulative work experience should be taken into account, not just one continuous employment period. DCYA do not ask for proof of this work experience, but trust that employers will assess their staff appropriately. The employer simply notes the paid work experience of the staff member on the form when applying for ECCE Higher Capitation. This information, as supplied by the employer, is generally accepted by DCYA.
The three years’ work experience on the part of the ECCE Room Leader has been a requirement of ECCE Higher Capitation, on the recommendation of DCYA’s own officials, and officials from the Department of Education (DES) Early Years Policy unit, following a review of ECCE Higher Capitation in 2011. It was not the case, however, that it was always applied as had been intended, and steps were taken from the 2015/2016 programme year onwards to regularise my department’s approach in this regard. Higher Capitation was introduced to incentivise the hiring and retention of graduates, which international research shows can assist with the provision of quality services to children. As the standard capitation is available to services that meet regulatory requirements, including minimum qualification levels, the fairly significant additional weekly payment offered by the Higher Capitation was intended to focus on both a degree qualification and paid experience deemed important for the delivery of quality services to children. 
Issues such as this are part of a wider conversation around professionalization and award standards for the Early Childhood Care and Education sector in Ireland. Since 2010, there has been a sea-change in the Early Years sector and increased professionalism though training and education has been at the forefront of that. While DCYA has supported further training and education for the sector, it is admittedly only in 2017 that we were able to provide some support for Early Years graduates through the Learner Fund bursary payment. Many practitioners have up-skilled to degree level on their own initiative, often studying part-time on top of work and their own personal commitments.
In the context of the training and education landscape in Early Childhood Care and Education in Ireland which is still growing, developing and standardising, both DCYA and DES continues to believe that additional Exchequer funding to providers via the Higher Capitation should recognise both the degree qualification and important hands-on experience with children. The historical requirement for three years’ work experience as part of the eligibility reflects DCYA efforts to incentivise more graduates, and retention of these graduates.
Our colleagues in DES have initiated a report on the award standard at degree level for Early Childhood Care and Education degrees and are consulting with the sector on this. The review will include  consideration of the practical experience required as part of the degree. DCYA is engaged with the process as well, and will take the findings into account in our approaches to the very important issue of further professionalization of the Early Years sector, and our own operational processes. 
DCYA has introduced a number of measures in recent years to support providers of early years care and education services provide financially viable, high quality and accessible services.  These measures include the forthcoming increase to both the standard and higher capitation rates from September 2018. DCYA is committed to continuing with these endeavours.