Early Years educators and providers from across county Roscommon presented politicians with a petition, containing over 2,000 signatures, which calls for improved pay and conditions in the sector, at an event in in Hannons Hotel, Roscommon Town, last night (Thursday, 14th June). Among the large attendance were representatives from the County Childcare Committee and the newly formed SIPTU Roscommon Big Start Early Years Committee as well as Independent TD, Michael Fitzmaurice, and Senators Maura Hopkins and Terry Leydon.   SIPTU Organiser, Anne Craughwell, said: “The meeting followed the launching four weeks ago of a petition calling on the Government to increase investment in the Early Years childcare sector. This petition has received over 2,000 signatures from people across the county and was presented to the politicians in attendance. “The meeting also discussed the creation of a new funding model for the Early Years sector. The current market model creates unsustainable tension between affordability and workers’ pay. This discussion is part of a nationwide consultation process involving SIPTU Big Start campaign members which will lead to the formulation of a SIPTU Funding Model for the sector. This model will be presented to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs prior to it launching a new Early Years strategy, which is scheduled to happen in September. “The SIPTU Big Start Campaign organises those concerned about the future of the Early Years sector to work towards the creation of quality, affordable and accessible childcare with decent pay for those providing it. Among its aims is the establishment of a Sectoral Employment Order which will set minimum rates of pay and other minimum conditions for Early Years’ workers.”  Helen Cosgrove, a private Early Years education provider from Strokestown, county Roscommon, said: “It is proposed that the new Early Years Strategy would involve a 10 year process. We cannot wait around for another 10 years and hope that the sector will improve.  We are frustrated and in a crisis.  It is impossible to retain and attract staff into the sector. We are under huge pressure as there is nobody coming into the sector or wanting to stay in it.”  Amy Dowd, the manager of Cuan Bhride Childcare Centre, in Four Mile House, county Roscommon, said: “We have just lost a very dedicated staff member because she cannot afford to stay in the sector. Nathalie always knew that she wanted to work in childcare.  She educated herself and worked in Early Years for over 10 years and now with a very heavy heart she has no choice but to leave the sector.  I am saddened to see such a fine, dedicated practitioner leave because she saw no future for her in the sector.”