Implementation plan for First 5, the whole-of-Government strategy for babies, young children and their families. The Government’s initial implementation plan for ‘First 5’, Ireland’s first ever strategy for early childhood was published on 22nd May 2019.
First 5 is a radical ten-year strategy that will deliver:
1. A broader range of options for parents to balance working and caring
2. A new model of parenting support
3. New developments in child health, including a dedicated child health workforce
4. Reform of the Early Learning and Care (ELC) system, including a new funding model
5. A package of measures to tackle early childhood poverty
The Implementation Plan describes the steps that will be taken in the initial implementation phase – from 2019 to 2021.
First 5 includes more than 150 actions that will be progressed in the initial implementation phase. A summary of key actions and milestones includes:
i. Access to a broader range of options for parents to balance working and caring
The schedule of milestones to be achieved will ensure that by 2021, parents will have an individual entitlement to seven weeks of paid parental leave, to potentially allow children to benefit from an additional 14 weeks of parental care in their first year. There are also a range of milestones identified so that by 2021:
• breastfeeding mothers in the workforce will be entitled to breastfeeding/lactation breaks for up to 104 weeks following the birth of their child.
• parents of all children up to the age of 12 will be entitled to 26 weeks of unpaid parental leave.
• employment legislation, culture and practice will better enable parents of young children to balance working and caring roles.
ii. A new model of parenting support
The First 5 Implementation Plan sets out a programme of work so that by 2021, there will be:
• high-quality, consistent parenting information resources available to meet parents’ requirements,
• a public information campaign on positive parenting; and
• a national model of parenting services – ranging from universal to targeted – including high-quality parenting programmes.
This work will be led by the new Parenting Unit, recently established by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and will be supported by a number of other Government Departments.
iii. New developments in child health
Arising from milestones identified in the First 5 Implementation Plan, there will be considerable enhancements to child health supports over the next three years. These will build on and align with existing health policies, including the Healthy Ireland Policy Framework and the new National Oral Health Policy, Smile agus Sláinte.
In the initial implementation phase, under the leadership of the Department of Health, there will be:
• new Healthy Eating Guidelines for 1–5 Year Olds,
• new Nutrition Standards for Early Learning and Care settings for 1–5 Year Olds, including a toolkit for implementation,
• a review of the content and scope of the Maternity and Infant Care Scheme,
• new preventive oral healthcare packages introduced for children under 6 and,
• enhancements to the National Healthy Childhood Programme, which covers child health reviews screening and vaccinations among others.
There will also be significant progress made in the development of a dedicated child health workforce, focussed initially in areas of high population density and disadvantage, with the foundational work needed for this transformative action completed in the initial implementation phase.
iv. Reform of the Early Learning and Care (ELC) System
A clear pathway to improve affordability, accessibility and quality of Early Learning and Care and School-Age Care is set out with a schedule of milestones to:
• introduce the National Childcare Scheme,
• move progressively towards a graduate-led professional Early Learning and Care workforce,
• introduce regulations for paid childminders and school-age childcare, and
• build on the National Childcare Scheme, undertake foundational work required to develop a new funding model for Early Learning and Care that will support improved quality without compromising affordability for parents or sustainability for providers.
This work will be led by the Departments of Children and Youth Affairs, and Education and Skills.
v. A package of measures to tackle early childhood poverty, including income, energy and food poverty
The First 5 Implementation Plan describes steps that will be taken to alleviate poverty in early childhood. This will include income poverty, energy poverty and food poverty measures. It will ensure that by 2021, there will be:
• expanded access to free and subsidised Early Learning and Care allowing families to take up employment.
• extensions to Warmth and Well-Being and Warmer Home Schemes.
• piloting of the meals and milk programmes with early learning and care settings.
• greater access to Community Cooking Programmes.
Preliminary work to develop and pilot a DEIS-type model for Early Learning and Care settings will be progressed.
Access the full document here: https://www.dcya.gov.ie/documents/earlyyears/20190522First5ImplementationPlan22May2019.pdf