I have repeatedly called for the Early Learning and Care sector to pursue a Sectoral Employment Order, which offers a viable mechanism to establish appropriate wage levels. As my Department is not the employer of ELC staff, we are therefore unable to set wage levels. As the Deputy will be aware, neither I nor my officials can initiate a Sectoral Employment Order, but my Department will readily co-operate with such a process, if and when it is underway.
My Department has also supported a range of measures to improve pay and conditions using the tools available. These include the 117% increase in investment over the last 4 budgets that has supported services to operate at optimal capacity and has provided additional capitation for early learning and care programmes, including a 7% rise in September 2018 in the ECCE capitation rate. Measures also include the introduction for the first time of an annual Programme Support Payment to recognise the administrative roles that services play; this totals €21.4m in 2019. I have also continued to provide a higher rate of capitation payment for graduate-led pre-school rooms, to encourage the attraction and retention of Early Learning and Care graduates, and in 2017 I introduced a higher capitation payment for services that employ a qualified Inclusion Coordinator as part of the AIM programme. In addition, last year I introduced a pilot measure for funding services whose staff take part in continuing professional development, and I extended the pilot this year to include the new 'Aistear and Play' CPD programme implemented by Better Start. I hope to build on this pilot further over the years to come, following an evaluation.
I have encouraged providers to use such additional funding to support, wherever possible, improved pay and conditions of the hard-working frontline staff that make such a lasting difference to children's lives.
Within First 5, there is a commitment to develop a Workforce Development Plan which will ensure appropriate levels of ELC and SAC staff at all levels in the sector. The Workforce Development Plan, which will involve close collaboration between the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Department of Education and Skills, will be developed in two stages. Stage 1 (for completion by Q2 of 2020) will involve preparation of a core report that sets out: a high-level vision for the ELC and SAC workforce for the period 2020-2028, and a pathway for achieving the commitments set out in First 5 in relation to development of the ELC and SAC workforce. Stage 2, which should be completed by Q2 of 2021, will involve completion of implementation plans by working groups to be specified in Stage 1.
The most recent sector profile published by Pobal indicates that in mid-2018 the average hourly wage of staff working directly with children in the early years sector was €12.17. The average wage increased by 24 cent or 2% on the previous year. Data from Pobal indicates that approx. 55% of staff earned less than €11.90 per hour in mid-2018.
In general, staff in management and leadership roles earn the highest hourly wage with centre managers earning €14.99 and deputy managers €13.49 per hour. These are followed by room leaders (both ECCE and non-ECCE) at an average hourly wage of €12.44. The average hourly rate for early years assistants (both ECCE and non-ECCE), who constitute 48% of all staff working directly with children, is €11.20 per hour. Relief staff are paid the lowest hourly wage, at €10.77. Wages increased across all staff positions, with rates of increase in the year to 2018 ranging from 1.5% for deputy managers to 3.6% for early years assistants (non-ECCE).