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DCYA Press Release - Government launches First 5

Government launches First 5, A Whole-of-Government Strategy for 

Babies, Young Children and their Families


19th November 2018

The Government has today unveiled ‘First 5’, Ireland’s first ever cross-Departmental strategy to support babies, young children and their families.
The ambitious ten-year plan will deliver:

1.    A broader range of options for parents to balance working and caring
2.    A new model of parenting support 
3.    New developments in child health, including a dedicated child health workforce 
4.    Reform of the Early Learning and Care (ELC) system, including a new funding model
5.    A package of measures to tackle early childhood poverty

The Strategy was jointly launched by the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr. Katherine Zappone, Minister for Health, Simon Harris, TD, and Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills, Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD. 

Also in attendance were representatives from the various Government Departments and State Agencies tasked with implementation. The launch coincided with a play morning at the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to mark the launch of First 5 and celebrate World Children’s Day.

Speaking at today’s launch, the Taoiseach said:

“The Government wants to make life easier for families, while also providing children with the best possible start. The first five years of a child’s life only happen once, but the impact of their experiences during this period can last a lifetime. For this reason, the Government has developed the ‘First 5’ Strategy.  

“This is the first strategy of its kind in Ireland, setting out a road map for change and development over the coming decade. Building on the many positive developments for young children in recent years, including family leave, subsidised Early Learning and Care, free GP care and a new Children’s Hospital, First 5 will significantly enhance early childhood in Ireland.”

There are five major areas of action in which the Strategy will drive change - the First 5 Big Steps. These are:

1.    Access to a broader range of options for parents to balance working and caring led by the Departments of Justice and Equality and Employment Affairs and Social Protection.
In order to support children to spend more time with their parents, especially in the first year, First 5 sets out plans to develop a new parental leave scheme. This will deliver extended entitlements to paid leave for both fathers and mothers. Minister Doherty will also develop a hot meals initiative for children in disadvantaged schools.

Speaking before today’s launch, Minister Doherty said:

“I was particularly pleased to recently introduce a new parental benefit scheme which will allow both parents to access an additional two weeks leave in the first year of their child’s life.  Over the coming years, it the Government’s intention to extend this entitlement to 7 weeks per parent. This initiative allows us to respond to the vital need to support parents of young children and recognises the formative nature of the first year of a child’s life.

“Additionally, in the context of today’s Strategy, I will also be providing additional funding for a hot school meals pilot programme to commence next year. Research shows us the value of the provision of adequate and nutritious meals for a child’s health, learning, attention and educational achievement.  I will be establishing a pilot programme for a hot meals scheme in DEIS primary schools to provide hot dinners for up to some 7,200 children.  If successful, I would hope to work with the Department of Education and Skills (DES) in extending the scheme on a much wider basis in future years and establish the scheme on a permanent basis.”

2 New developments in child health    

First 5 sets out new measures to promote positive health behaviours and the mental health of babies, young children and their families, and to enhance the National Healthy Childhood Programme. 

“We know that good physical and mental health in the early years is essential for children’s experiences and for their later outcomes.  Positive experiences in early childhood mean reduced incidence of heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease and depression.  There is no doubt that investment in health promotion and health services in the early years pay dividends for children, families, and for the health service. This is a fundamental part of creating a Healthy Ireland, giving every child the best start in life.” Minister Harris said.

Minister Harris also announced plans to develop a dedicated child health workforce, focussed initially in areas of high population density and disadvantage. This, Minister Harris said:“will increase the capacity of the HSE to provide health promotion and prevention and early intervention services for the benefit all babies and young children”.

3.    A new model of parenting support led by a new Parenting Unit established by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs 

First 5 streamlines and improves existing parenting supports provided across a range of Government Departments and State Agencies. Accessible, high-quality information and guidance will be made available for parents to promote healthy behaviours, facilitate positive play-based early learning and create the conditions to form and maintain strong parent-child relationships. A continuum of parenting services – ranging from universal to targeted - including high-quality parenting programmes, will also be made available.

At today’s event, Minister Zappone said:  

“Experts, including children themselves, recognise the essential role played by families in nurturing healthy child development. That is why strengthening families is at the heart of this Strategy. 

Alongside greater opportunities to balance work and home life through parental leave and flexible working, First 5 develop a new national model of parenting supports, ranging from universal to targeted - making parenting supports and high quality programmes more accessible to all families for the first time”

4.    Reform of the Early Learning and Care (ELC) system led by the Departments of Children and Youth Affairs and Education and Skills

First 5 builds on the very significant developments in ELC over recent years and seeks to further improve affordability, accessibility and quality. Measures include introducing the Affordable Childcare Scheme, moving progressively towards a graduate-led professional ELC workforce and the extension of regulations and supports to all paid childminders and school-age childcare services.  

Under this, Minister Zappone announced her plans to at least double investment in ELC over the next decade building on the unprecedented 117% increase in investment in ELC that has been secured over the last four years.

“More funding, even if it reaches these record levels, is only part of the answer,” the Minister warned. “We must ensure public funding is allocated efficiently, fairly and that it is targeted in the correct manner to deliver the best results for children. 

This additional investment will continue to reduce the out of pocket cost of ELC to parents. It will compensate providers so that they can deliver ELC on a sustainable and high-quality basis. Importantly, it will be used to attract and retain a well-qualified workforce, enabling continued professional development across their career and creating more supportive working conditions so that the workforce feel valued”.

This will be achieved through a radical reform of the funding model for ELC with work commencing on that model to commence in early 2019. 

These measures will coincide with developments in the primary education sector. At the launch, Minister Mitchell O’Connor asserted a commitment to working with Minister Zappone on raising the quality of ELC and supporting children’s the transition to primary education.

“As an educator, having been a school principal in a previous life, I know only too well the importance of a smooth educational continuum for all children as they move from their pre-schools into school.  It is imperative that we continue to work with professionals and agencies in both the early learning and care sector and the primary school sector to make absolutely sure this transition is supported.  

The most important person in this equation is the child.   Our role is to ensure that all children experience high quality, age appropriate learning opportunities wherever they are, in settings, schools or at home. Our experts in the NCCA and in the Inspectorate are a hugely important voice in articulating how very young children’s learning and development is supported through play based and emergent child-led curriculums.” 

5.    A package of measures to tackle early childhood poverty  

First 5 identifies new measures that will address poverty in early childhood, including expanded access to free and subsidised ELC, extensions to the Warmth and Well-Being and Warmer Homes Schemes and the introduction of a meals programme and DEIS-type model for ELC settings. 

“Tackling inequalities that can emerge in early childhood are critical is if are to give all children the best start in life” Minister Zappone said. “Children deserve a happy and fulfilled childhood. By introducing measures to tackle early childhood poverty, we will give children a strong and equal start”.

The implementation of First 5 will be overseen by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. A detailed implementation plan will be published in the coming months. 


A Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families 2019-2028 (Summary)

Straitéis Uile-Rialtais do Naíonáin, Leanaí Óga agus a dTeaghlaigh 2019-2028 (Achoimre)

Report on the National Consultation with Young Children

Video- Twitter

Video of Strategy Launch

PIP Announcement - Online 'GDPR' training


Online ‘GDPR for Management’ training

As you are all aware, the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) came into force on 25 May 2018 and all organisations are responsible for ensuring that they are meeting their obligations under the GDPR.  Of course, Data Protection legislation has been in force for quite some time and there is an obligation on all of us to ensure that we are compliant with all relevant legislation.

However, in response to concerns within the Early Years sector relating to GDPR readiness, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) is offering complimentary online General Data Protection Regulation Training to all childcare services to support you in meeting your Data Protection obligations. This training is designed and delivered by iHasco.

Course content:

This training will take approximately 40 minutes to complete and consists of tutorial videos and a separate test at the end. Slides may be viewed as often as you wish. Each service has only one credit for the course (i.e. the test may only be completed once) so only one email address may be used to access the course. Each service should consider who is the most appropriate person to complete the test at the end of the training. Each service can come in and out of the training as required until you have passed the test at the end. The default pass mark for the test is 60%. Once that mark is achieved you cannot retake the test. Each service will get a certificate on successful completion of the test.

Accessing the training:

The training is available on the following link until 23 October 2019: Only an email address is required to log in. Each service should ensure they read iHasco’s Privacy Notice and Terms and Conditions.


DCYA hold no responsibility for the content of the course. It is at the discretion of each service whether they choose to complete the training. DCYA is not in a position to provide individual GDPR advice. Further details on GDPR and Data Protection can be found on the website of the Data Protection Commission:

This online training is offered as a support for services in relation to GDPR obligations, and provides a high level overview of the principles of GDPR. Services will need to assess what further actions they may need to take to ensure they are fully informed of their responsibilities in relation to GDPR in an early years context.



DCYA Announce New Network Support Fund

New funding available to networks working to improve outcomes for children under the Quality and Capacity Building Initiative (QCBI)


Applications are now open for the new Department of Children and Youth Affairs’ Network Support Fund

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

 The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone, TD is pleased to announce the launch of a “Network Support Fund”, a Quality and Capacity Building Initiative (QCBI) measure supported through Dormant Accounts Funding.

The QCBI is an initiative designed by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to ensure those working with children, young people and their families build on the existing body of evidence demonstrating the impact of prevention and early intervention approaches, models and practices on outcomes for children. This new funding measure under the QCBI will support statutory, community, and voluntary organisations leading or co-ordinating networks, learning communities or fora promoting evidence informed approaches to prevention and early intervention services so that those working with and for children, young people and their families are supported in doing the right things, in the right way and at the right time. It will facilitate formal and informal knowledge sharing explicitly focussed on enhancing practice and professional dialogue and curiosity around evidence informed prevention and early intervention. Applications are encouraged from networks made up of specific disciplines, such as teachers, Public Health Nurses, Social Care workers, as well as multidisciplinary networks. 

The Minister says,

"I am delighted to announce funds for Organisations working with and for children and young people, to further support them in accessing essential training, workshops, networking and sharing events. I am confident all those successful in their application will use the learning they’ll achieve towards making a positive difference to the lives of children and young people living in Ireland."

The 2018/2019 QCBI Network Support Fund is open for applications from 5 November 2018 until 5 November 2019. It will be open to applications on a rolling basis, meaning that interested organisations and networks can apply at any time until the end of November 2019 to secure funding to a maximum of €20,000 per year for activities such as peer to peer networking and knowledge sharing events, knowledge sharing tools or resource development, training workshops and seminars. 

Further details on the application process are available on the DCYA website (Click Here).

Affordable Childcare Scheme to open for applications Oct 2019

New Affordable Childcare Scheme to open for applications in October 2019


  • Existing childcare subsidy schemes to remain in place for 2019/20 programme year, ensuring certainty for families and ‘continuity of care’ for children 

  • Comprehensive information and training supports to be rolled out from early 2019 offering a supported transition period for families and childcare providers


Tuesday 6th November 2018

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone, has announced that the new Affordable Childcare Scheme will open for applications in mid- October 2019, with payments flowing from November 2019. 
The scheme will offer a single, easy to access system of financial subsidies towards childcare for families in Ireland.  Through this, it will enhance affordability and accessibility, and provide a platform for investment in quality childcare to benefit current and future generations. 

“I have been steadfast in my commitment to deliver the crucial change that families need, and so I am delighted to be able to announce the timeframe for the introduction of the new Affordable Childcare Scheme” commented Minister Zappone. 

“We are building the radical new childcare infrastructure needed to transform childcare in Ireland from one of the most expensive in the world into one of the very best. This involves putting in place a legislative framework, through the Childcare Support Act 2018, and building a world class IT system to allow parents to access tailored childcare supports that will meet the needs of each family.  By lowering childcare costs, the Affordable Childcare Scheme aims to support parents to return to work and training, to reduce child poverty and to improve child outcomes.”

From October 2019 everyone will be able to apply for the new Affordable Childcare Scheme.  To ensure a smooth transition for both parents and providers, the current childcare subsidy schemes will remain in place for the 2019/20 programme year.  People will be able to register for the current schemes as normal, from August 2019 up until the new Affordable Childcare Scheme launches.  After the launch date, people can choose to move over to the new Scheme or to remain on their old scheme for the remainder of the programme year.  This will provide certainty for current scheme beneficiaries, offer ample time to apply for the new scheme and ensure that no family is worse off during the transition period.  Once the Affordable Childcare Scheme is in place in October 2019, registrations under the existing schemes will cease.

Comprehensive information, training and supports will be available to parents, childcare providers and other stakeholders from early next year in readiness for the launch of the scheme. 

Enhancements to the Affordable Childcare Scheme announced as part of Budget 2019 will mean that an even greater number of families will now benefit from the scheme.  The significant increase in the maximum net income threshold to €60,000 per annum means that an estimated 7,500 additional children will benefit from the scheme relative to the original proposals, including some families with gross income of up to €100,000 per annum.  Over 40,000 other children, already eligible, will see increases to their subsidies. 

Childcare providers, who play an integral role in the delivery of all of the DCYA childcare schemes, will continue to receive a Programme Support Payment (PSP) in 2019. Budget 2019 provided funding of €19.4m for PSP, an increase of nearly 8%, which will bring the total amount of PSP paid to childcare providers since 2017 to over €55m in recognition of the administrative support they offer in delivering the schemes’ benefits to parents.

Further information relating to the launch of the scheme will be made available at over the coming months. Families can also find information on the website in relation to existing supports to make childcare more affordable in Ireland. 

Quality Regulatory Framework Briefing Sessions

02 November 2018

Re: Early Years Inspectorate Briefings 2018

A Chara,

I am delighted to take this opportunity to invite you to a series of Quality and Regulatory Framework (QRF) Inspectorate briefings throughout November and December.

As you know the Early Years Inspectorate’s QRF was launched in Dublin in September. The QRF document clearly presents the scope of how the Inspectorate will assess services for compliance with the 2016 Regulations, which in turn will promote the quality and safety of services provided to children. Each service has been provided with a copy of the QRF. If you have not received a copy, please contact the inspectorate for a copy. The QRF is also available to download on our website at:

Throughout November and December, the Inspectorate will deliver a limited series of briefing sessions which you are invited to attend. If it is not possible for you to attend, you are welcome to send another representative from your service, where appropriate. These briefing sessions will focus on the QRF, as well as providing an update on the process for the re-registration of Early Years Services in 2019, and a summary of the Inspectorate’s annual report, which will be published shortly.

These briefings will begin at 6.30pm and end at 9.00pm in the following venues on the following dates:

 15th November 2018 - The Ardilaun Hotel, Tailors Hill, Galway

 19th November 2018 - The Clayton Hotel Dublin Airport, Stockhole Lane, Swords, Co. Dublin

 26th November 2018 - The Hodson Bay Hotel, Roscommon Road, Athlone

 29th November 2018 - The Newgrange Hotel, Bridge Street, Navan, Co. Meath

 4th December 2018 - The South Court Hotel, Raheen Roundabout, Raheen, Limerick

 4th December 2018 - The Clayton Hotel Silver Springs, Tivoli, Cork

 6th December 2018 - The Clayton Hotel, Sligo, Clarion Road, Ballinode, Sligo

 10th December 2018 - The Citywest Hotel, Naas Road, Saggart, Co. Dublin

If you wish to attend one of these briefings you can reserve a free place by visiting our Eventbrite booking page at: