SIPTU representatives today (Thursday, 31st August) launched the union's pre-Budget submission on childcare outlining five priorities for the sector. Speaking at the launch in the Larkin preschool, Ballybough, Dublin, SIPTU Head of Strategic Organising, Darragh O’Connor, said: "Quality for children is at the heart of our submission. We have set out five priorities for Budget 2024, including measures to address the staffing crisis, improve quality and support children with additional needs. "The staffing crisis is the biggest issue for Early Years services, with more than one-third of staff seeking work outside the profession. This crisis has resulted in room closures, increased workload and stress for educators, as well as high staff turnover which undermines quality." "Unless the minimum rates of €13 per hour increase significantly, Earl Years educators will continue leave their profession for better-paid jobs simply to pay the bills. "SIPTU Organiser, Deborah Reynolds, said: "I worked in Early Years for over a decade, so I know the difference that high-quality care and education can make in the life of children. "The best outcomes for children are achieved when early education and care are delivered by experienced graduates who are consistently working with the same children. To achieve this, Early Years professionals must be rewarded with appropriate rates of pay that recognise both graduate qualifications and years of service.