Wednesday, 21 September 2022
Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
Early Childhood Care and Education
99. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if he will review the roll-out of a scheme in an area (details supplied) to ensure that the programme is adequate for small-scale providers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46149/22]
On 15th September, I launched Together for Better, the new funding model for early learning and childcare.
Together for Better is underpinned by an Expert Group report, Partnership for the Public Good: A New Funding Model for Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School-Age Childcare (SAC).This new funding model will support delivery of ELC and SAC for the public good, for quality and affordability for children, parents and families.
Together for Better brings together three major elements, the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme, including the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM), the National Childcare Scheme (NCS) and Core Funding, in line with the Employment Regulation Orders coming into effect.
I am pleased that, so far, 90% of early learning and childcare providers – almost 4,000 services – have become Partner Services under Core Funding, committing to working in partnership with the State for the public good, and to a freeze on parental fees at September 2021 rates.
Core Funding is the new funding stream worth €221 million in full year costs to start this partnership for the public good between the State and providers. Its primary purpose is to improve pay and conditions in the sector as a whole and improve affordability for parents as well as ensuring a stable income to providers.
Core Funding is designed specifically as a funding stream related to the costs of delivery. Core Funding is based on operating hours, number of places offered by services, and the age group of children for whom the places are offered, given the staffing requirements determined by the regulatory ratios for different care categories. It follows that services opening for longer hours or offering more places will receive a higher value of Core Funding than other services. This is because their costs of operation are higher.
For example, ECCE is 15 hours per week over 38 weeks of the year. This amounts to 570 hours per year and is equivalent to 23% of the annual hours of a full day service operating from 8am to 6pm for 50 weeks of the year. ECCE ratio requirements are 11 children to one adult. Services offering places for 1-2 year olds can have a maximum of 5 children to one adult. ECCE therefore has less than half the hourly staffing requirement of a service for 1-2 year olds.
Core Funding allows for an estimated 19% increase in the total cost base for the sector. The vast majority of services will see substantial increases in funding. No service will see a decrease in funding. For any service that does experience financial difficulties, a Sustainability Fund will be put in place. This new strand of the Sustainability Fund, linked to Core Funding, will be designed to provide an extra safety net for providers. This will be open to both private and community providers.
Together for Better, the new funding model being implemented, aims to transform the sector with a higher degree of public investment and public management. This transformation starts with Core Funding and the new approach will entail a shift in the relationship between the State and providers in relation to delivering ELC and SAC, with new responsibilities on both sides.
Core Funding is open to all registered providers subject to their agreement to the terms and conditions of the funding, including financial transparency and fee management. Some providers take the view that the autonomy of their business is of greater value to them than committing to offering services under the conditions and investment levels on offer through Core Funding, ECCE and NCS.
Participation in Core Funding is, of course, optional. Of the 90% participation country wide, this currently ranges from 82% uptake in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown. 148 services Partner Services in Dun Laoghaire have joined the scheme and the remaining 30 may choose to do so at a later point. Providers are encouraged to contact their local City/County Childcare Committee for support in understanding the benefits and impacts of Core Funding for their service or if they require any assistance with the application process.
I look forward to working with Partner Services together for better early learning and childcare.