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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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Snippet Contents:

It is important that we acknowledge the critical role played by staff working in the early years sector in delivering high quality childcare services. The early years work force deserve to be recognised, valued and respected. My Department does, however, acknowledge that pay and conditions are major issues facing the sector. I am engaging with the early years sector to explore how this can be addressed.
It is important to note that my Department is not an employer of early years educators. While my Department is a significant funder of childcare services, recognised employer and employee groups are the most important stakeholders in putting agreed pay structures in place in any sector.
In terms of improving pay and conditions I have suggested to the early years sector that they could apply to the Labour Court for a Sectoral Employment Order (SEO), asking the Court to make a recommendation in relation to pay for the whole early years sector.
Under a SEO process, organisations substantially representative of employers and employees come together to agree a way forward and submissions are sought from key stakeholders. It should be highlighted that my Department would have no role in relation to the SEO process, but, as a significant funder and with policy responsibility for quality, my Department would be well placed to make a submission to the Court once it publishes its notice in relation to the matter of the application for a SEO for the sector. I would be very supportive of any reasonable measures aimed at improving pay and conditions in the early years sector. While my Department does not have direct control over the matter, it will continue to support any appropriate initiatives in this area.
In the interim, my Department continues to invest significant resources in the early years sector. In the last three Budgets (2016, 2017 and 2018) investment in the early years sector has increased by 87%, which reflects the emphasis being placed on developing quality services with appropriately supported staff. This additional investment is helping to address affordability, access and quality, although it is recognised that there is more to be done. The announcement in Budget 2018 that we will increase ECCE capitation rates by 7% from September 2018 is intended to support the childcare workforce.
Childcare workers are part of a growing sector that the Government strongly supports. I believe that by working together with all key stakeholders we can ensure that it is a viable and strong sector which makes a significant contribution to the care and early education of our children.