I have had regular and valuable interactions with providers of early learning and care services in my tenure as Minister, while visiting services, attending conferences, in my role as a constituency TD and through formal structures I have established for this purpose.
I established the Early Years Forum in 2016, to enable stakeholders to meet and exchange views with me, my officials and representatives of the State agencies involved in the early years sector, including Pobal and Tusla.
A number of provider representatives are members of the Forum, including Early Childhood Ireland, the National Childhood Network, the Association of Childhood Professionals, Seas Suas and the Community Forum. The Forum meets at least twice a year and provides a framework for engagement will all parts of the early years education and care sector. I also established a professionalisation sub group within the Forum to advance certain matters. The Forum affords members the opportunity to ask questions, to propose ideas and solutions, and to inform policy. I would encourage its members to actively prepare for these meetings, to add items to the agenda and to be part of the problem solving our sector currently requires.
My Department provides funding to a number of organisations to assist my Department in delivering on its objectives of improving access to high quality and affordable early learning and care and school age childcare. These include 30 City and County Childcare Committees, Early Childhood Ireland, the National Childhood Network and Childminding Ireland. Each of these organisations represents the voice of private providers and engages directly with my Department to shape our policy.
I also engage with ICTU and IBEC through the Childcare sub-group of the Labour Employer Economic Forum, on which SIPTU participates.
In addition to formal engagements, officials of my Department have frequent interactions with providers and their representative bodies, and keep me informed of the current issues of concern for providers, both private and community based.
Please see link below for information on the Early Years Forum, including published agendas, minutes and current membership list: