A survey of more than 3,000 managers and staff in the childcare sector has indicated that many facilities face reducing services or potential closure over the coming months due to an inability to recruit the necessary qualified professionals required to run them. The Early Years Staffing Survey Report 2021, launched today (Thursday, 9th September) at a special online briefing for Oireachtas members, reveals a sector drifting further into crisis due to the impact of low pay and staff leaving the sector. CEO National Childhood Network, Denise McCormilla, said: “The results of the survey highlight the escalating difficulties in providing childcare services to families. Of the managers who responded to the survey, more than 70% found it ‘extremely difficult’ to recruit staff in the past 12 months. The majority of these indicated that poor pay in the sector was the ‘biggest obstacle’ they faced when recruiting staff.“This recruitment crisis is having clear consequences, with 97% of managers stating it will ‘negatively impact on service provision’. If Budget 2022 does not increase investment in the sector, specifically for salaries, then the consequences will be a significant collapse of service provision.” The main impacts on services identified by managers were reduced quality for children (highlighted by 63% of managers), difficulty in maintaining staff to child ratios (59%), reduced capacity (61%) and closure (34%). Although additional burdens have been placed on staff due to Covid-19, the report found the pandemic was not a significant reason for workers leaving the sector.SIPTU Head of Organising, Darragh O’Connor, said: “Many qualified and skilled educators simply cannot afford to stay in their profession. The survey found that 42% of Early Years educators are actively looking for a job outside the sector with 75% identifying low pay as the reason for leaving their profession. A very concerning issue to emerge was that 80% of respondents indicated that they do not intend to work in the Early Years sector in 12 months’ time ‘if things stay the same’.”He added: “The reality is most Early Years educators earn below the Living Wage of €12.40 per hour and are struggling to make ends meet. The pandemic showed just how vital these frontline workers are, which is why we are calling on the Government to recognise their work and address the staffing crisis by investing in better pay in the upcoming budget.” In its pre-budget submission, the New Deal for Early Years campaign is calling on the Government to invest an additional €150 million in childcare, split evenly between pay and affordability measures. Early Years Staffing Survey Report 2021