Frances Fitzgerald TD, Minister for Children & Youth Affairs has today announced that she has allocated €900,000 in the current year to allow both Early Childhood Ireland and Border Counties Childcare Network to commence delivering training modules commencing before end 2013.
The Minister said: “This funding will provide subsidised support to 630 existing childcare staff to commence training for a full major award at Level 5 or 6 to meet the new qualification requirements being introduced from September.”
The Minister added that “as part of Budget 2014, I have also allocated a further €1.5m in 2014 to support staff training and upskilling,”
Minister Fitzgerald outlined the progress being made by her Department and the HSE in implementing other elements of her 8-point Pre School Quality Agenda.
The Minister stated: “During 2013 I have set about implementing a comprehensive Pre-School Quality Agenda, including putting in place much needed systems of support and regulation for pre-school services in Ireland. This includes securing an unprecedented allocation of €4.5m in Budget 2014 for quality measures; as well as major changes to the laws governing pre-school services.”
Regarding pre-school inspection reports, the Minister stated “As promised we have, for the first time, begun publishing pre-school inspection reports on the Pobal website. As of this week there are 1,672 pre-school inspection reports now online. This includes the first 12 new reports, with many more now to be uploaded.”
The Minister stated that the HSE is currently at an advanced stage of recruiting 5 additional inspectors in areas where gaps had been identified:
o Louth (post to be filled this week)
o Dublin South/East Wicklow (two inspectors being recruited for here)
o Sligo/Leitrim/ West Cavan
The Minister stated: “In additional to this current recruitment, I have allocated €500,000 in 2014 to further increase staffing levels to strengthen the national pre-school inspection system.”
Minister Fitzgerald also outlined her plans for establishment of a National Quality Support Service for pre-school services. She stated: “I secured funding of €2.75m in Budget 2014 to establish a new National Quality Support Service. This service will employ graduates in early childhood care and education who will work directly with services to improve quality including supporting services to implement the Siolta framework and Aistear curriculum.”
The Minister further confirmed that the Dáil has recently agreed committee stage amendments to the Child and Family Agency Bill
• to introduce statutory registration of all pre-schools services
• to introduce a range of new enforcement powers for inspectors at pre-prosecution level. Inspectors will be empowered to specify improvement conditions with which a service must comply, and the threat of removal of registration (i.e. closure) will be available to them.
• to increase the penalties at District Court level for an offence under the Act to a maximum class A fine (i.e. €5,000 instead of €1,270)
Minister Fitzgerald stated that her Pre-School Quality Agenda “represented an essential building block towards the possible introduction of a second universal free pre-school year which I have championed.”