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 Header Item Child Care Services Staff (Continued)
 Header Item Early Years Sector

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 960 No. 4

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Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I thank the Deputy. The measures that I introduced in budget 2018 were very strategic and came after much reflection on how, having introduced many measures in budget 2017 which are now beginning to kick in for families, we could focus particularly on quality issues in 2018, as well as looking at ways in which our quality focus can continue to ensure that the cost for families can be more affordable. The increase in the capitation rate, for the first time ever, is clearly income that will go to child care providers. It is there for staff and for other costs, but as the Deputy well knows, the primary cost in the provision of child care is staffing. The Department have made a significant contribution, in the context of the concerns around pay. In addition, the extension by up to four months of the free pre-school for many children also increases the income of the provider. Those are two examples, not to mention the €18 million for programme support, of ways in which I am continuing to invest in the services in order to support the increased pay and conditions.

Deputy Anne Rabbitte: Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte I was trying to push the Minister on the issue of the community employment, CE worker and the community crèches. Did the Minister see this as an opportunity for the community crèches to take on the additional staff that they may have lost? I do not want to be disingenuous but I did the sums on it myself and if one was to break it down, the 7% would not bring their wages up to minimum wage. Does the Minister have plans going into the future as to how we can help and support the community sector after the loss of the CE worker? I still regularly hear about that loss and how expensive it is for crèches to recruit staff. Not only is it hard to recruit, but it is expensive because they are continuously competing. Now they will be competing all the more because they may not be able to afford to take on the extra staff.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I hope that is a measure that would support the community sector in the provision of child care, particularly, as the Deputy has identified, in light of the concerns around community employment. In response to another question, I indicated that there will be an additional €700,000 available to the community sector to help with sustainability and viability issues. I am doing a considerable amount with the resources that I achieved in the budget. In the context of the wider budget and indeed the overall decisions that were being made I believe that I achieved a significant amount for the Department and for the providers. The focus was on quality. I want to say again that I am absolutely determined to support these measures. There was not much movement for sectoral employment orders. I wish there was, but in the absence of those, this is what I am doing.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy Question No. 38 is in the name of Deputy Ruth Coppinger. I have received her apologies; she is absent due to attendance at a committee meeting. Question No. 39 is from Deputy Mattie McGrath as láthair ag an am seo.

Deputy Anne Rabbitte: Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte He is at the same committee meeting.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy That is fair enough.

    Questions Nos. 38 and 39 replied to with Written Answers

Early Years Sector

 40. Deputy Niamh Smyth Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the status of her proposal to provide sectoral payscales for those working in community child care settings. [43465/17]

 51. Deputy Denise Mitchell Information on Denise Mitchell Zoom on Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the measures she is taking in order to ensure wages in the early years sector are increased to a rate to which it is considered a viable long-term employment option for qualified workers. [43695/17]

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I propose to take Questions Nos. 40 and 51 together.

Child care workers play a critical role in delivering high quality child care services and they deserve to be recognised, valued and respected for this. My Department acknowledges that pay and conditions are major issues facing the sector and can lead to difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff.

My Department is somewhat constrained in what it can do in this regard as it is not an employer of child care workers. However it is of course a major funder of the child care sector. It is important to note that the most important stakeholders in putting agreed pay structures in place in any sector are recognised employers and employee groups.

My Department is aware that trade unions are active in seeking to achieve a critical mass of representation on the employee side, and I welcome this move. My Department would also be supportive of any move on the employer side to establish a recognised representative body.

In terms of improving pay and conditions, I have suggested to the sector that it might apply to the Labour Court for a sectoral employment order, SEO, asking the court to make a recommendation regarding pay for the whole early years sector. Under an SEO process, organisations substantially representative of employers and employees come together to agree a way forward and submissions are sought from key stakeholders. While my Department would have no direct role in the SEO process, as a significant funder, and with policy responsibility for quality, it would be well placed to make a submission to the court once it publishes its notice on the application for a SEO for the sector.

In the interim, the last three budgets have increased investment in early years by some 87%. This has helped us to address affordability, access and quality, although I recognise that there is more to be done. This year's announcement of a 7% increase in ECCE capitation is intended to support the workforce. The €18 million in 2017 to support "non-contact time", or the administration burden associated with the scheme, is also intended to support providers and their employees.

Deputy Niamh Smyth: Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth I thank the Minister for her reply. I am sure that she is aware, from being out and about in various constituencies, that the bottom line is that child care workers find themselves in untenable positions due to the issue of income versus expenditure and the administrative costs and burdens incurred as part of delivering the affordable child care scheme. We recognise the immense contribution that child care workers are making within Irish society in caring for children. However, we need to invest more heavily in the child care sector. We need more investment for the child care workers and for parents who are under immense strain. Child care can cost families anything up to €1,000 a month. It is a huge extra burden on parents. We are not in a position to deliver on the affordable child care scheme, as we had hoped. ICT seems to be a huge burden on the child care workers and those who administer it. We have 9,000 families who are going to miss out on that scheme as a result of subsidies not being made available. Can the Minister comment on that?

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone Of course I agree with the Deputy's initial points. I have done a huge amount in terms of trying to identify, with the limited resources available to me, and I got more than others in this budget, where the resources should be applied. I have also indicated that investment into the early years sector in general has increased over the years. I am not disagreeing with the Deputy's point that more investment is required. I understand that. The two main measures that I put forward this year focused on quality, hoping that the investment will get to the workers. In terms of ECCE capitation rates, we used some case studies. A small service with 11 children and a level 6 practitioner will see its income rise from €26,961 to €28,942. That is an increase of €1,881 into that service. An average service with 25 ECCE children with graduate room leaders will see its income rise from €71,250 to €76,237. That is an increase of €4,987. Those are just a couple of examples. I could provide other case studies. We carried out these scenario analyses to see how much more money could get into these different types of providers and services by increasing the capitation rate by 7%. It was directly intended to support the providers and, hopefully, the child care workers and professionals.

Deputy Niamh Smyth: Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth I appreciate where the Minister is coming from, but I must continue to dwell on the fact that we need to do more to help the child care providers.


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