The Childcare sector has become a vital cornerstone of society in Ireland, allowing both parents the opportunity to work. With increased standards of living, a double income is now a necessity rather than a choice for many young families. Childcare is a costly but necessary service for Irish families as many simply can’t afford to live off one salary. The state too is reliant on childcare facilities as allowing both parents to work is generating more money in the economy. With such a reliance placed on this sector it is disappointing to see that childcare facilities are under significant strain due to lack of investment.
Childcare fees in Ireland are amongst the highest in Europe. The average Irish family spends 34% of their household income on childcare; this is double the European average. The government have made contributions to ease the burden on families, most recently with the introduction of the Affordable Childcare Programme and the more established ECCE (Early Childhood Care and Education) scheme. The ECCE scheme allows families to avail of three hours per day, five days a week, of free childcare. This programme was first launched in 2010 and has been extended recently to allow children from a younger age to access the service. Families can avail of two pre-school years of the ECCE programme. ECCE is only available during school term time. This caveat adds an expense to families who still need care during holidays and it causes complications for childcare centres when hiring staff for term time contracts only, forcing some workers on to the live register during summer months.
The increased birth rate has put pressure on the childcare sector. Many parents are booking places in creches before their children are even born. Childcare centres are not having problems filling their rooms. They are having problems keeping their facilities fully functioning and meeting demands.
A report in 2017 showed that 86% of creches and preschools expressed concern in recruiting staff. It is unsurprising that staff are hard to come by because wages are so low in this sector. The early childhood sector is among the lowest paid profession in Ireland. Childcare workers, some qualified with masters and degrees are earning on average €10-€13 per hour. Coupled with this is the precarious nature of contracts. As previously mentioned creches need to hire staff on part time contracts to meet the demands of the ECCE scheme which is only operational during term time. Low wages and part time contracts make it difficult to attract employees to this sector.
What are the repercussions of lack of funding and staff shortages? Many childcare facilities are finding it difficult to stay fully operational. Staff shortages and lack of funding is forcing childcare facilities to reduce intake of babies and toddlers. Due to the low ratio required when caring for babies, 1:3, many creches have opted not to offer care to children under one.
Low wages, part time contracts and lack of investment are posing a serious threat to the care of the most vulnerable in our society. Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone called for increased investment in childcare over the coming years.
“This report[national survey of childcare facilities 2017] adds to the growing body of evidence needed to target increased investment in early years. It provides insights on other important policy priorities, like affordability, sustainability and quality, and will be critical in guiding this rapidly expanding sector in future years,” she said.
Let’s hope the government can deliver in their plans for change to improve conditions for employees in this sector.
Early Childhood Care and Education
The area of childcare is now most commonly referred to as "Early Childhood Care and Education." There are approximately 22,000 people working in the ECCE sector in Ireland (Pobal, 2016). Pre-school children in Ireland are children under 6 years of age, who are not attending a national school or equivalent. Pre-school services include pre-schools, montessori, play groups, naíonraí, day nurseries, crèches, childminders and other similar services looking after more than 3 preschool children..
Those interested in becoming a Crèche Assistant should be comfortable with children and enjoy their company. They have to be caring, understanding and able to give encouragement. A friendly, cheerful personality is helpful.
Crèche Assistants need a sense of fun and lots of energy. The work can be both physically and mentally demanding so Crèche Assistants need good health, fitness and stamina. Personal attributes such as patience and tolerance are essential, as Crèche Assistants need to be able to cope with noise and constant demands for their attention. Crèche Assistants also need to be well-balanced individuals who can keep calm under pressure and in the event of an emergency. Knowledge of first aid, hygiene and nutrition is useful and it is essential for Crèche Assistants to pay attention to safety.
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The CareersPortal Team