A message from Minister Zappone:

I am very pleased to launch the Early Years Sector Profile Report for 2017/2018. This is the third year I have had the pleasure of launching the report, which comes at a time of continued and rapid growth for the early years sector. My Department has overseen greater state investment in early years than ever before resulting in an increased number of children benefiting from government funded childcare programmes. The increased funding for childcare and youth services, announced in Budget 2019 represents another significant step in ensuring access to high quality, affordable childcare for all children. This year, for the first time, every child in the country, up to the age of six years, has had access to a Government childcare subsidy via universal or targeted programmes. I am delighted that in excess of 185,000 children have benefited from these subsidies this year. Alongside ongoing investment in the early years sector, I am committed to evidence-based policy development.

The data and findings from the Early Years Sector Profile Report play an important part in tracking progress and changes within the sector as well as identifying emerging needs. The data will also inform the implementation of the Affordable Childcare Scheme and will ensure that the sector is prepared for the roll-out of this important initiative. Particularly notable from this year’s report is the increase in the number of children using centre-based care and in the numbers of staff employed in these centres.

I am delighted to see that these early years professionals are becoming increasingly more qualified as the survey reflects. It is undeniable that skilled, highly qualified staff are a vital component of our childcare provision. However, the report also highlights the ongoing issue of staff wages and I am fully aware that retaining qualified staff remains a concern for many services. This year’s survey has had the highest response level to date, with over 3,900 services completing it.

I would like to express my gratitude to each and every one of them for taking the time to do so. The high volume of responses this year is a testament to how highly evidence-based policy development is regarded within the childcare sector itself. I would also like to thank the City and County Childcare Committees and Voluntary Childcare Organisations for promoting the survey through their wide networks. As always, I wish to express my gratitude to the team at Pobal for not only the administration of the survey but also the data analysis and the production of the report itself. I remain committed to ensuring access to high quality and affordable early childhood care and education throughout Ireland. My Department has overseen an ongoing increase in Government expenditure in childcare through four successive budgets and I believe it is critical that we continue to ensure the increased investment continues into the future. Childcare providers, parents and most of all, our children, who are at the centre of everything we do. They deserve nothing less than this and I, along with my Department, will continue working towards this aim of affordable and accessible quality childcare provided by highly qualified and respected professionals.