Childcare workers who are forced to rely on social welfare payments over the summer months delivered hundreds of ‘Postcards from the Dole’ to Minister for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe, today (Friday, 14th July), to highlight their precarious contracts and the lack of state investment in the Early Years sector. The postcards were handed over outside the Department of Finance, Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2, to Department Press and Information Officer, Ben Sweeney, by SIPTU Activist and Early Years educator, Sandra Hurley. She said: “As Early Years education services closed their doors last month, Early Years educators across the country found themselves left with no income for the next eight weeks. Under the Early Childhood Care and Education Scheme (ECCE) operated by the Government, Early Years educators are only paid for 38 weeks a year.” SIPTU Sector Organiser, Darragh O’Connor, said:“The first five years are the most important in a child's development. Investing in quality Early Years education results in benefits including significantly higher educational attainment. “However, Ireland lags behind the rest of the EU investing just 0.5% of GDP in Early Years education compared to the international benchmark of 1%. This means that qualified professionals are paid on average just €10.27 per hour and thousands of them are on precarious 38 week contracts. This has resulted in a staffing crisis as people don’t see a future for themselves working in a sector that they love." The ‘Postcards from the Dole’ action is part of the SIPTU Big Start Campaign for recognition, funding and decent pay in the Early Years sector.