The Federation of Early Childhood Providers was formed in October 2019.
Elaine Dunne, chairperson met with providers who had similar concerns for the future of the Irish Early Years sector. They came up with the name Federation of Early Childhood Providers. Soon after establishing the group the name was abbreviated and stuck as the “Feds” by other agencies, Elaine and Fiona travelled up and down the country listening to concerns from providers on the ground. From this they knew they had to act quickly as some of these stories were distressing. They met some broken men and women on these trips.
The Federation is a group that solely wanted to give Independent Providers a voice. Somewhere along the way our Early Years sector became dictated to in so many ways by departments that don’t seem to communicate with each other. Many Providers had grown wary of this treatment and knew it was time for a change. As the group who advocated to give Independent Providers a voice grew at speed, the Feds decided to make a nationwide statement by marching the streets of Dublin and showing the Government that things had to change. Finally, Independent Providers would come together to have their voices heard.
As the interest grew, other long-established groups approached the Federation to join forces and march as one united voice. These groups NCN, ACP, Séas Suas, The Community Forum and SIPTU came together to form “The Alliance” which was later changed to “Together For Early Years”. ECI came to the first TFEY meeting but chose not to continue with the alliance formed. This group without the Feds is the newly formed Advisory Group (Including ECI and PLE)
Independent Providers supporting staff, along with parents saw 30,000 people come out on the streets marching for further investment in the sector. We wanted to see significant investment into The Early Years Sector to bring Ireland close to and eventually on par with the rest of EU as sadly we are one of the lowest funded Early Years Sector in the EU.
We want investment for wages to make the sector more attractive for our highly qualified Early Years Educators, many who hold from a L5,6,7 to a degree & also many with a Masters in Early Childhood Education and Care. We know there is a serious problem when these qualified educators are leaving to go through a back door to Primary School teaching instead. There is different level of respect at Primary level. This type of respect is what the Federation invision for the future of the Early Years in Ireland.
We want adequate Funding to keep services sustainable while protecting the smaller services who maintain the homely environment that we all love about the Irish Early Years Services.
We want Respect, negotiation and an understanding of how our sector really works.
This is important and what we advocate for daily. We feel this is one of the biggest failings from our current Government. We are the professionals with the knowledge to get the job done. It’s very simple.
What has been evident from travelling around the country is the mental health of providers. Time and time again we heard of Providers who struggle to maintain their own salary and to keep their service going. Many Independent Providers told us they adore their children and the relationships with the communities that have been built up for many years. They struggle internally with this and still manage to provide a home from home environment for the children across Ireland.
The establishment of The Federation of Early Childhood Providers has been very successful. This is because there was a need for a strong Independent Providers only group. The Federation currently represent 34% of Independent Providers equating to almost 55,000 children.
Action plan for the reform of the Irish Early Years Sector
- We request financial support to ensure the sustainability for our sector.
- We request a new funding model that supports affordability for parents, high quality for children and professional pay scales and recognition for Early Years Educators
- We request respect for both ourselves the Independent Provider and our staff, the Early Years Educators.
- We are requesting the challenges within our sector regarding the staffing crisis are finally addressed.
- We request effective policy development through respectful, meaningful negotiation and co-design with all representative groups within the sector
- We request the Government to acknowledge the issues around the current Garda vetting system for Early Years Educators in Ireland.
- We request a streamlined inspection process with a graded compliance system