Frances Fitzgerald TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, has today launched ‘Right from the Start’, the report of the Expert Advisory Group established to make recommendations for Ireland’s first-ever Early Years Strategy which is currently being prepared by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs
Addressing the launch event today Minister Fitzgerald spoke of the importance of early intervention: “I have consistently highlighted the importance of investing and supporting quality interventions in the early years of children’s lives. In Ireland, we have so much to gain from early intervention in seeking to address major challenges and to interrupt both current and future crises. If we want to improve literacy and numeracy, which is critical; then we must start early. If we want to disrupt the crisis of childhood obesity – a quarter of our three years are overweight or obese – Then we must start early. Put simply: early intervention works; the early years matter.”
Welcoming and accepting the report, the Minister stated: “ By setting out such a comprehensive range of recommendations for the continuum of service and support for Irelands youngest children and their families, from early childhood health, to supporting parents to ensuring quality in early years provision; this report brings a much needed focus to areas of policy which for too long were discounted and undervalued.”
The Minister said that the high quality of the Report will provide a very strong foundation for finalisation of a robust and meaningful strategy to serve our youngest children and their families well over the coming years.
The Minister acknowledged that: “This report provides for the first time, a strategic approach to the development of Ireland early years; not just for now, not for just for this budget, not just for this Government. This is a strategic approach for years to come. I welcome the incremental approach set out in the report. Additional funding and major new programmes will not be rolled out overnight. A multi-annual approach is what is required; and with its ‘five peaks over five years’ this report very significantly set out the destinations for a multi-annual roadmap”
The Expert Advisory Group, chaired by Dr. Eilis Hennessy of UCD, was comprised of a range of individuals who have huge wealth of knowledge and expertise across the issues that affect children in their first years, including childhood development, care, education, health and well-being.
The Minister thanked the members of the Expert Advisory Group, for the dedication and enthusiasm which they have shown and the time they have committed to the work of the group
The Minister concluded by calling for a national debate on the early years. The Minister said she had asked the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children to set aside time to join this debate and that a further consultation event was planned with representatives of the broader early years sector.