Candidates from all the major parties in the Dublin Bay South by-election said that childcare services are a major issue in the election and increased investment in the sector was needed, at a hustings hosted by the SIPTU Big Start campaign yesterday (Wednesday, 23rd June) evening. At the event, Fine Gael candidate and Dublin City councillor, James Geoghegan, said: “Investment is the only answer to improving both the quality, the cost and the living and working conditions of workers within the childcare sector.” He added that government commitments to improve the sector for families, workers and service providers had to backed with “real funding and real money”. Sinn Féin candidate, Senator Lynn Boylan, said the childcare system was “not fit for purpose and needs to be re-imagined” and called for the State to take responsibility for paying the wages of childcare workers. Labour Party candidate, Senator Ivana Bacik, said: “A public, universal childcare system is absolutely crucial to a social democratic and left-wing vision of society.” The other candidates on the panel, Green Party Dublin City councillor, Claire Byrne, Fianna Fáil Dublin City councillor, Deirdre Conroy, the Social Democrats’ Sarah Durcan and People Before Profit’s Brigid Purcell, also called for increased funding for the sector. Big Start activist and Early Years educator, Sharon Gaynor, said: “Last year, it became clear to everyone the vital role Early Years care and education plays. We are providing a service that is part of the backbone of the economy. We are there to look after, care, nurture and love children but our pay packets do not provide us with enough to provide basic supports for our own families.” Big Start activist and Early Years manager, Pamela Carey, said: “My fear is that nobody wants to start work in Early Years education anymore and nobody is staying. It is impossible to provide places in my creche as there are not enough staff to cover the rooms. It is not fair on families and it is not fair on us as workers.” SIPTU Organiser, Sabrina Ryan, said: “There is huge momentum for change in the childcare sector and the Government needs to invest in the workforce of this vital public service. Budget 2022 is the opportunity for the Government to invest more to ensure the highest possible standards of childcare.” The full hustings event can be viewed on the Big Start Facebook Page.