The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, has launched the new funding model for ELC and SAC, Together for Better.
Together for Better brings together 3 major elements, the Early Childhood Care and Education programme, including the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM), the National Childcare Scheme and Core Funding, and is launched as Core Funding comes into operation, with 90% of eligible services signing up.
Speaking about the launch, Minister O’Gorman said, “I am delighted to launch Together for Better, the new funding model to bring transformative change to this vital sector. Together for Better supports improved affordability for parents; better pay and conditions for staff; improved availability for families through increased capacity; and greater financial stability for service providers.”
“Together for Better provides a sound framework for future investment through the introduction of the new Core Funding scheme, along with continued investment in the Early Childhood Care and Education programme, AIM and the National Childcare Scheme. Core Funding, which begins today, is a step change in public management for the sector. I am delighted that 90% of services have chosen to come into partnership with the State by signing up. This substantial additional public money will promote the interests of children, their families and workers while ensuring continued sustainability for providers, and supporting expanded capacity.”
Core Funding was first announced in Budget 2022 with a full year allocation of €221 million. Core Funding guarantees that fees to parents in Core Funding Partner Services will not increase above those which were charged last year. This gives significant certainty to parents, and ensures that parents can enjoy the full benefit of future investments in the National Childcare Scheme, including the extension of the universal subsidy to children of all ages which came into effect in August, without the risk of increased State subsidies being absorbed by increased parental fees.
The scheme begins, in alignment with the commencement of Employment Regulation Orders (EROs) for the sector. The EROs will mean improved pay for over 70% of workers in the sector, with specific recognition for different roles and qualifications, establishing a wage structure for staff. This historic achievement has been enabled by the investment in Core Funding.
There is also significant evidence of expansion of capacity within the sector. Record numbers of services have requested a Change in Circumstance on the Tusla register, primarily to increase the operating hours or number of child places being offered. Up to mid-August, there has been a 31% increase in Change in Circumstance applications from Early Learning and Care services and 261% increase in increase in change in circumstances for School-Age Childcare services compared to 2021.
Minister O’Gorman said, “together for Better is officially being launched today and already all the indications are that it is achieving significant and welcome change in the sector in relation to affordability, quality and accessibility. This is the first step towards significant further developments in the sector which will be introduced in the coming years.”