SIPTU has welcomed an increase of €69 million in investment targeted at improving the conditions of workers in the childcare and Early Years education sector announced, today (Tuesday 12th October), by the Government as part of Budget 2022. SIPTU is the union for Early Years professionals and represents approximately 6,000 educators, room leaders and managers working in community and privately run Early Years education and childcare services throughout Ireland.  SIPTU Head of Strategic Organising and Campaigns, Darragh O'Connor, said: “Over recent months thousands of SIPTU members have sent a simple message to the Government, that is that the Early Years sector is in crisis. They will welcome the announcement today of increased investment in the sector, which the Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe, said will be used ‘first and foremost to improve conditions for workers’. This increased funding will be introduced in September 2022 and will bring the full annual government funding planned for the sector to approximately €200 million for next year. “Poverty pay rates are driving qualified Early Years educators out of their profession. They simply cannot afford to stay in a job they love. Not only does this leave qualified professionals living in poverty, it has also caused a staffing crisis for services which has resulted in a reduction in the number of children that can be cared for. It has impacted on the ability to maintain adequate staff/child ratios and on the quality of these services for children. “According to the Annual Early Years Sector Profile, produced by POBAL which is the main community funding organisation for the sector, Early Years educators, who constitute 55% of all staff working with children, on average earn just €11.91 per hour. This is 99 cent below the living wage for Ireland in 2021. The New Deal for Early Years Staffing Survey 2021 revealed that 42% of Early Years professionals are actively seeking work outside the sector.  “Thousands of SIPTU members working in Early Years took action to demand that the Government address the crisis in their sector in Budget 2022. It would appear from the budget announcement that the Government has hear those calls.”  He added: “The additional investment announced today will go some way to addressing the crisis in the Early Years sector if the funding is effectively spent. Pay talks need to begin as a matter of urgency at the recently instituted Early Years Joint Labour Committee. The resulting legally enforceable pay deal should see thousands lifted out of poverty and result in an improved Early Years sector for children, parents and those working in it.”