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Government launches new early years scheme

Posted by Schooldays Newshound, on 19/11/2018. Government launches new early years schemeTags: Parenting

The Government has unveiled ‘First 5’, Ireland’s first ever cross-Departmental strategy to support babies, young children and their families.

The ambitious ten-year plan will deliver:

  • 1.A broader range of options for parents to balance working and caring
  • 2.A new model of parenting support
  • 3.New developments in child health, includinga dedicated child health workforce
  • 4.Reform of the Early Learning and Care (ELC) system, including a new funding model
  • 5.A package of measures to tackle early childhood poverty

    The Strategy was jointly launched by the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr. Katherine Zappone, Minister for Health, Simon Harris, TD, and Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills, Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD.

    There are five major areas of action in which the Strategy will drive change - the First 5 Big Steps. These are:

    1. Access to a broader range of options for parents to balance working and caring led by the Departments of Justice and Equality and Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

    In order to support children to spend more time with their parents, especially in the first year, First 5 sets out plans to develop a new parental leave scheme. This will deliver extended entitlements to paid leave for both fathers and mothers. Minister Doherty will also develop a hot meals initiative for children in disadvantaged schools.

    2 New developments in child health

    First 5 sets out new measures to promote positive health behaviours and the mental health of babies, young children and their families, and to enhance the National Healthy Childhood Programme.

    Minister Harris also announced plans to develop a dedicated child health workforce, focussed initially in areas of high population density and disadvantage. This, Minister Harris said:“will increase the capacity of the HSE to provide health promotion and prevention and early intervention services for the benefit all babies and young children”.

    3. A new model of parenting support led by a new Parenting Unit established by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs

    First 5 streamlines and improves existing parenting supports provided across a range of Government Departments and State Agencies. Accessible, high-quality information and guidance will be made available for parents to promote healthy behaviours, facilitate positive play-based early learning and create the conditions to form and maintain strong parent-child relationships. A continuum of parenting services – ranging from universal to targeted - including high-quality parenting programmes, will also be made available.

    4. Reform of the Early Learning and Care (ELC) system led by the Departments of Children and Youth Affairs and Education and Skills

    First 5 builds on the very significant developments in ELC over recent years and seeks to further improve affordability, accessibility and quality. Measures include introducing the Affordable Childcare Scheme, moving progressively towards a graduate-led professional ELC workforce and the extension of regulations and supports to all paid childminders and school-age childcare services.

    Under this, Minister Zappone announced her plans to at least double investment in ELC over the next decade building on the unprecedented 117% increase in investment in ELC that has been secured over the last four years.

    This will be achieved through a radical reform of the funding model for ELC with work commencing on that model to commence in early 2019.

    These measures will coincide with developments in the primary education sector. At the launch, Minister Mitchell O’Connor asserted a commitment to working with Minister Zappone on raising the quality of ELC and supporting children’s the transition to primary education.

    5. A package of measures to tackle early childhood poverty

    First 5 identifies new measures that will address poverty in early childhood, including expanded access to free and subsidised ELC, extensions to the Warmth and Well-Being and Warmer Homes Schemes and the introduction of a meals programme and DEIS-type model for ELC settings.

    The implementation of First 5 will be overseen by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. A detailed implementation plan will be published in the coming months.
    A summary of the Strategy Document can be viewed HERE



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