SIPTU, together with a coalition of eleven Early Years and civil society organisations, has today (Thursday, 8th July) launched the ‘New Deal for Early Years’ campaign for the reform of the childcare sector so it can provide improved services for children, families, workers and providers. At an event held at Merrion Square in Dublin this morning (Thursday, 8th July) the campaign called on the Government to begin the process of reforming the childcare system in Budget 2022. SIPTU Head of Organising, Darragh O’Connor, said: “The current childcare system is simply not working. It must be reformed in order to create high quality, affordable and accessible services for children and families which are delivered by qualified educators with professional pay and conditions. Despite their qualifications, most Early Years educators earn just above the minimum wage and parents are paying the highest fees in the European Union. “In Budget 2022, the Government has the opportunity to make a down payment on a new childcare system that delivers for children, families and educators.” Chairperson of PLÉ, Dr Sheila Garrity, said: “The time a young child spends in early childhood education and care seems fleeting, only a few short years, yet the impact lasts a lifetime. The coming budget must address the laggard position of Ireland concerning the quality and funding of early childhood education and care. Our youngest citizens deserve better.” She added: “High quality services must include a professional workforce. This can only be achieved with significant state investment.” Early Years educator and SIPTU activist, Eilish Balfe, said: “We are qualified professionals but most of us earn below the living wage of €12.30 per hour. We are struggling to make ends meet. So many passionate educators just cannot afford to stay in their profession. This has resulted in high staff turnover rates which is undermining the quality and sustainability of services for children.” SPARK spokesperson, Louise Bayliss, said: “We urgently need a new child centred approach to Early Years education in Ireland. Chronic underfunding means the current model fails parents, workers and most importantly children. We support the call for a ‘New Deal for Early Years’.” The organisations involved in the ‘New Deal for Early Years’ campaign are SIPTU, National Women’s Council, National Childhood Network, CRANN Support Services, National Community Childcare Forum, Irish Congress of Trade Unions, OMEP Ireland, Further Education Teachers Network, Association of Childhood Professionals, Men In Childcare, PLÉ and SPARK.