I have committed my Department to producing Ireland’s first-ever National Early Years Strategy later this year. The National Early Years Strategy will focus on the period of early childhood, from birth to age five, and will cover various aspects of children's lives. The strategy will take a joined-up, cross-government approach to the issue of supporting children and their families during the early years and focus on supporting families, good health and positive early learning.
The development of the Strategy is being informed by national and international evidence on what makes most difference in helping to ensure that the early experiences of young children are positive. Consultation on the important issues that the strategy should address has been undertaken with young children as well as with representatives of key organisations and interest groups in the area. A further consultation event will take place in the coming months. The drafting of the Strategy is well advanced and discussions are taking place with colleagues across Government to progress its development.
The work of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection is key to financially supporting families with young children. Discussions between officials in DEASP and DCYA in respect of the Early Years Strategy have commenced and are ongoing. An Inter-Departmental Group including a representative from DEASP has been convened and has begun its work.
Decisions about commitments in the Strategy will be taken by Government in the coming months and in light of the budgetary context.
Development of the Strategy is a priority for me and for my Department, and I will move to publish the Strategy later this year.
Given the importance of these first five years for childhood development and for development over the life course, this Strategy offers considerable potential to transform the lives of young children and their families over the next decade.