First 5, the whole-of-Government strategy for babies, young children and their families, commits to at least doubling investment in ELC and SAC on 2018 levels in the decade to 2028. A key vehicle to ensure that such significant additional investment delivers for children, families and the State will be a new funding model. The new funding model will be the framework for additional investment in services in return for clear evidence of quality and affordability to ensure effective use of public funding.
An Expert Group has been leading the work on developing this new funding model since 2019. The Group is independently chaired and includes national and international experts in ELC and SAC systems, funding, quality, economics, and relevant policy experts from the Government Departments who will be involved in implementing the new funding model. They have met seventeen times to date and it is expected that their report will be submitted in November 2021.
Implementation of the Group's recommendations will be dependent on budgetary decisions. The allocation of public funding to implement specific programmes or initiatives takes place on an annual basis. It is therefore not possible to set out the level of investment in future years, which will be subject to the annual budgetary process. The full implementation of the Expert Group's recommendations is likely to be a multi-annual process, with funding likely becoming available on an incremental basis. In the short term, I anticipate that the Group’s recommendations will contribute to informing the Budget 2022 process and my officials are already engaged in that process.
Further information on the work of the Expert Group and documentation related to the process is available at www.first5fundingmodel.ie.
The Programme for Government commits to implementing First 5, which specifies the planned increase in investment over a number of years, and the new funding model will enable that increased investment to deliver the types of services that align with national policy objectives, resourcing quality provision and requiring affordability for participation in the new model.