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One in four children unable to access free preschool places in Dublin's North-East Inner City

08 December 2022

  • Government must espond urgently to disadvantage and stop putting it on long finger.

Labour Party Senator Marie Sherlock has said the major shortage of free preschool places in the Dublin's north inner city cannot continue to be ignored by the Government.

Speaking after the Labour party brought forward a motion in the Seanad last night (Wednesday, 7th December) to highlight the very serious shortage of places in early years care and education in some parts of the country, Senator Sherlock said:

"It is simply unacceptable that as many as one in four children of pre school age cannot access a free pre-school place in Dublin's north east inner city. Everything we know about breaking the cycle of disadvantage and deprivation points to putting in place support for children in the earliest years of their lives.

"Unfortunately, last night we heard from the Government that they don't recognise there is a shortage and instead point to increases in supply of early years places across the country. This is very frustrating because we see on the ground families and children being left behind before the children ever get to primary school.

"We only know the depth of the problem in the inner city thanks to the sterling work of Young People at Risk (YPAR), a subgroup of the NEIC Task Force. Their soon to be published research conducted externally by the Childhood Development Initiative highlights the severe shortage in ELC (early learning and care) provision in the north east inner city and makes a series of important recommendations on supports to families. While the research covers the north east inner city, we know that there is also shortages in the north west inner city with the sudden loss of 55 pre school places in Stoneybatter last June.

Senator Sherlock continued:

"Ultimately, we need the Government to step up. Such are the TUSLA regulations for new early years settings it is near impossible to locate premises in Dublin to convert into a early years service. This plus the commercial cost of rent means the Government will have to step in and build publicly owned early years facilities. The planning guidelines on childcare facilities date back to 2001 and such are the exemptions, that there is no proper planning childcare and early years education when housing developments are being built.

"The Government talk about a Building Block capital fund for the early years but to date we have not seen a penny go towards building new and adapting existing premises. The Government also talk about supporting services where there are high levels of disadvantage, yet the pilot on hot meals that has been spoken about for months has still not commenced, let alone opened to every early years service.

"There have been significant changes in the sector over the past two years with the introduction of core funding and the pay deal for early years educators. But that alone is in no way sufficient to ensure that every child has equal access to a place, that there is affordability for parents and enough respect and reward to retain early years professionals in the sector. The reality is that the State will have to intervene to ensure enough places and to build a system of universally available early years care and education."