Dáil debates

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Topical Issue Debate

Early Childhood Care and Education

4:55 pm

Photo of Katherine ZapponeKatherine Zappone (Dublin South West, Independent) | Oireachtas source

I have a couple of points to make on the Deputy's additional question and one or two points on his original contribution. There are two aspects, the first of which concerns the support my Department provides to the practitioners and professionals in the early-years and child care setting, specifically in regard to the Learner Fund. As the Deputy is aware, Learner Fund 3 was to provide support and grants to individuals so they could bring their qualifications up to level 5. As I stated, 91% have achieved this. The fund will be open until July of this year. If there are any practitioners who need upskilling to level 5, the optional is still available. The Learner Fund for level 6 is in train. That was part of the 2016 allocation.

The Deputy indicated that 60% of the workforce should be degree-led by 2025. My ambition is higher than that. Perhaps I should say “60% sooner than 2025” but I am working with the officials in my Department to examine the feasibility of this. We must determine the kinds of resources we need to provide to practitioners to ensure we meet the target sooner than 2025. I have begun conversations on considering the Estimates for 2017.

The second aspect of the Deputy’s question concerned the cost of preschool services and whether the funding is sufficient, especially as we extend the second year. The Department is commissioning an independent review of the cost of child care, which will begin, I hope, in early September. The information we will obtain will influence the additional resources that I am sure I need to seek to support the extraordinary people in the sector.


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