Cate McCurry, PA
Better pay for people working in the early-years childcare sector is the only way to resolve the staffing crisis, it has been claimed, as it was revealed that almost 40 per cent of workers are actively seeking to leave the profession.
The vast majority of those seeking to leave the profession say that low pay is the main reason.
An early-years teacher said the staffing crisis has “imploded” this year, as it was revealed that almost 95 per cent of service providers said they are concerned that problems recruiting and retaining staff will negatively affect them.
The survey, carried out by Siptu earlier this month, included 1,977 managers and staff and was published on Monday.
Deborah Reynolds said that the sector is “very unsettled and upsetting”.
The survey showed that creches and childcare facilities have found recruitment to be a major issue, with 68 per cent of managers and owners finding it “extremely difficult” to recruit staff.
Poor pay was cited as the biggest obstacle to recruitment, with almost 36 per cent saying it was a significant obstacle.
Managers and owners also said that issues over recruiting and retaining staff will reduce the number of children that can be cared for, affect the quality of services, and lead to difficulty in maintaining staff to child ratios.
Some 73 per cent believe that the new rates of pay negotiated by Siptu will help address the recruitment and retention crisis.
A majority of workers stated that the agreed rates of pay, and future increases, would make them more likely to stay in their profession.
However, only 12 per cent of service providers said the minimum rates will help with recruitment and retention, while 60 per cent said it will help if there are further pay increases year-on-year.
And 54 per cent said they will likely stay in the early years sector if there are further pay increases year-on-year.
Under the proposed pay deal, the minimum hourly rate has been set at €13 per hour, while a graduate manager will receive €17.25 per hour.
The survey also revealed that 41 per cent of lead educators, who generally have higher qualifications, are actively seeking work elsewhere.
Just 13 per cent would recommend a career in the sector to a friend or family member, the survey also shows.
Speaking during the launch of the survey, Ms Reynolds said: “It is a very sad time in the sector because our colleagues are leaving the sector rapidly.
“It’s very, very difficult for people to recruit and retain.
“We’ve been talking about this staffing crisis for many years and it’s like as if we’ve just been talking about the threatening floodwaters. Well, now it’s my belief that the staffing crisis has breached the boundaries and people are really stuck.
“There is a lack of staff around the country.”
She said the crisis is leading to a “poor quality” service for children and that the crisis is due to low pay.
“Working in early years is a cost-of-living crisis,” she added.
“We know what it feels like to not be sure whether or not we can afford our utility bills. We know about wearing an extra jumper in the winter to not use up too much fuel.
“What early years educators are going through at this moment in time is nearly a double cost-of-living crisis.
“It’s an absolute disgrace that we’re in this position.
“We do have solutions to the staffing crisis and pay is the answer to the staffing crisis.”
Siptu's head of strategic organising Darragh Reynolds said 62,000 people qualified in childcare sector, which show that lack of staff is not the cause of the crisis.
He said that they survey also found that of creches and childcare facilities that recruited staff in the last 12 months, almost 70 per cent found it “extremely difficult” to hire staff, while 25 per cent found it difficult.
More than 70 per cent of services lost staff in the last year.
Some 65 per cent of people who left said they did so to improve their pay in another job, while 13 per cent said to return to education and training.
Almost 95 per cent of providers said they are concerned that problems recruiting and retaining staff will negatively affect service provision.
Service providers say their biggest concern is having to be forced to reduce the number of children that can be cared for, while almost 39 per cent fear they will have to close.
Around 87 per cent of people said they would not recommend a career in early-years to a friend or family member.