Fine Gael Galway East TD, Ciaran Cannon, has endorsed the SIPTU call for action to alleviate the staffing crisis in Early Years services following a meeting with local union representatives and activists involved in the Big Start campaign. At the meeting on 20th August, Cannon discussed with the delegation the upcoming budget and the SIPTU proposals contained in its prebudget submission ‘A New Deal for Early Years’. These proposals include the Government investing €75 million in Early Years services to improve pay for educators to help end the high number of qualified staff leaving the sector and increase affordability for parents. Cannon said: “We had a very informative meeting. I understand and fully support the need for increased investment in the sector. The meeting also provided me with an opportunity to get a better understanding from professionals working within the sector of just how chaotic and stressful it has become, especially over that last two years.”  He added: “The case that they make for significantly increased investment in the sector is a very strong one and is underpinned by years of research. The most impactful investment we can make in our children’s education is in their early years and the Budget, later this year, needs to reflect that. There are also major issues with recruitment to the sector and this also needs to be addressed through the creation of a well-defined and well rewarded career path for all childcare professionals.” Early Years educator and SIPTU Big Start Galway Committee chair, Deborah Reynolds, said: “It’s very hard to justify working in such a responsible role for such low wages. Early Years professionals need a professional wage for the professional role they carry out. With morale at an all-time low and a worrying exodus of highly qualified staff, Budget 2022 is critical for the future of Early Years services.” Christiana Shultz, the manager of Kinvara Community Childcare, one of the largest Early Years services in county Galway, said: “The staffing crisis is going to collapse the whole childcare sector at a time when the Government is trying to get people back to work. Without investment to improve pay, highly qualified staff will just take up work in better paid jobs.” SIPTU Organiser, Clement Shevlin, said: “A Joint Labour Committee (JLC) has been established for the sector. This body will bring together representatives of employers and workers in the sector to agree minimum pay, terms and conditions of employment in all Early Years services. If this JLC is to be successful in rescuing the sector the Government must increase investment.” He added: “Ireland needs to rebuild its economy and childcare is the foundation it will be based upon. These services can no longer be provided without adequate public investment.”