The Big Start campaign has criticised the failure of the Government to tackle the problem of low pay for Early Years professionals as part of its commitment in Budget 2017 to increase investment in pre-school childcare services. Big Start campaign coordinator and SIPTU Sector Organiser, Darragh O’ Connor, said: “Increased investment in Early Years education is long overdue. The increased allocation for services included in Budget 2017 is just a small step in remedying the unsustainable situation in the sector “Participation in high-quality childcare benefits children and society as a whole. Equally, there is unambiguous evidence that poor-quality childcare can harm children. There is also equally clear evidence that the way to ensure high-quality childcare is by maintaining a professional workforce. This can only be achieved by establishing pay and conditions for workers that encourages Early Years professionals to remain in the sector and develop their skills. “Unfortunately, this is not the childcare model we currently have in Ireland. Dedicated Early Years professionals will be lost to the sector if precarious 38-week contracts which pay just over €10 an hour, well below the Living Wage, remain the norm.” He added: “The coalition of Early Years professionals, service providers and parents which back the Big Start campaign will continue to demand quality early childhood care and education services are available for all our children. We are convinced that without concretely addressing pay and conditions in this sector, the quality agenda cannot be pursued effectively. “We know that providers want to pay a decent wage, we also know that this is impossible for many under the current funding model. The solution for workers and providers is clear; by working together we can demand the State investment needed to build a quality Early Years sector.”