Thursday, 3 February 2022
Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
193. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the measures that are being taken to address the staff shortage issues in childcare facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5422/22]
Many early learning and care and school-age childcare services report staffing and recruitment difficulties, with increased pressures recently as a result of Covid-19.
In general, staffing pressures in the sector are caused not by insufficient supply of qualified personnel, but by high levels of staff turnover, compounded by the current high numbers of Covid-19 cases and individuals self-isolating. Recruitment and staff retention difficulties are undoubtedly linked to poor terms and conditions, with for example the average pay being €12.60 per hour in 2021.
As the State does not employ early years educators or school-age childcare practitioners, I cannot set wage levels or determine working conditions for staff in the sector. My Department has, however, over a number of years provided a range of supports to service providers to enable them to improve wages and working conditions.
In December last, I published the Nurturing Skills, the Workforce Plan for Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare, 2022 to 2028. Actions in Nurturing Skills to develop career pathways and promote careers in the sector will complement efforts to improve pay and conditions of employment, to make the sector more attractive to potential workers.
A key enabler for Nurturing Skills will be the Joint Labour Committee for Early Years Services. I began a process in December 2020, which examined the possibility of regulating pay and conditions and the suitability of a Joint Labour Committee for the sector. This process culminated in the establishment of a Joint Labour Committee, which began meeting in December 2021.
In Budget 2022, I announced a new Core Funding stream which, among other objectives, will support service providers to meet new higher rates of pay that may be negotiated through the Joint Labour Committee.
I am also committed to supporting providers in responding to current challenges. Over recent weeks, a Sub-Group of the Early Learning and Childcare Stakeholder Forum was convened to discuss immediate staffing pressures resulting from Covid-19 and additional measures that may be needed.
One proposal which was agreed is a temporary measure that has been in place during December and January specifically to help services respond to Covid-19-related staffing shortages through the temporary employment of students on recognised courses of study who are deemed to have achieved the equivalent of a level 5 qualification in early learning and care.
194. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if he will provide an overview of Nurturing Skills: The Workforce Plan for Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare 2022-2028; the associated actions that are being considered by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5477/22]
Nurturing Skills: The Workforce Plan for Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare, 2022-2028, which I launched on 7 December 2021, aims to strengthen the ongoing process of professionalisation for those working in early learning and care and school-age childcare.
Early years educators, school-age childcare practitioners and childminders play a key role in supporting children’s development and well-being, working in partnership with families. Recognising their central importance for the quality of provision, Nurturing Skills aims to support the professional development of the workforce and raise the profile of careers in the sector.
Commitments in Nurturing Skills are organised under five pillars:
- Establishing a career framework;
- Raising qualification levels;
- Developing a national Continuing Professional Development system;
- Supporting recruitment, retention and diversity; and
- Moving towards regulation of the workforce.
Successful delivery of commitments under the five pillars will be supported by three "key enablers" that are identified in Nurturing Skills:
- Improvement in pay and conditions of employment;
- Coordination of the quality support infrastructure; and
- Ongoing engagement with the profession.
Nurturing Skills includes an Implementation Plan for the Plan's first three years (2022-2024). The Implementation Plan sets out 57 actions, for many of which my Department has lead responsibility.
Nurturing Skills also commits to establishing a Monitoring Committee to oversee implementation. The Monitoring Committee, which will be chaired by my Department and will include representatives of relevant Government Departments and agencies as well as the workforce, will be established shortly.