Kenny: Plan will make Ireland ‘best small country to grow up in’

Second free pre-school year forms part of new policy blueprint for children

 Frances Fitzgerald, said the new framework represented a challenge for the Government and society to move on from a legacy of failures and plan for a better future for our children. Photograph: Eric Luke

Frances Fitzgerald, said the new framework represented a challenge for the Government and society to move on from a legacy of failures and plan for a better future for our children. Photograph: Eric Luke

 


The Government has pledged to introduce a second free preschool year before the end of the decade under a new policy framework aimed at improving outcomes for young people.

It is one of about 160 policy commitments in Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures , a national policy for children and young people aged up to 24 years. They include mostly broad objectives such as improving supports for parents, focusing more on earlier intervention and prevention; and fostering a culture that listens to and involves children and young people.

While many of the goals are aspirational and do not contain funding commitments, Government Ministers said the principles would help ensure the best use of public money in the service of the State, its children and families.

The document was launched in Dublin yesterday by Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald, alongside Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore.

Mr Kenny said the blueprint represented more than simply good intentions. Instead, it provided a road map for improving co-operation between Government agencies and making Ireland “one of the best small countries to grow up in and raise a family”.


Building blocks
Ms Fitzgerald said she strongly supported the policy commitment to extend the free preschool year but was unable to say if it would occur within the lifetime of the Government.

“We’re putting in place the building blocks for a second free preschool year,” she said. “It’s the right thing to do and I want to do it as soon as possible, well within the lifetime of the framework.”

She said the expansion would depend on improvements to the quality of existing preschool services and on the availability of sufficient resources. A second free preschool year, for example, is estimated to cost about €175 million.

The policy sets out five broad national outcomes for children and young people. They include ensuring children are active and healthy; are achieving in learning and development; are safe and protected; have job security and opportunities; and are respected and contributing.

The plan envisages achieving these through “transformational goals” such as better supports for parents, earlier intervention and involving children in decision-making.

More detailed policy objectives include lifting 70,000 children out of poverty by 2020. This would represent a reduction of about a third within the lifetime of the policy.

Government Ministers also said they would assess the effectiveness of policy implementation and report on progress annually.

Ms Fitzgerald said the new framework represented a challenge for the Government and society to move on from a legacy of failures and plan for a better future for our children.

“It’s the challenge of moving on from addressing the legacy of failings to promoting a culture and cross-Government approach to improving outcomes for all children,” she said.