Image: First 5 Banner work around
First 5 is a whole-of-Government strategy to improve the lives of babies, young children and their families. It is a ten-year plan to help make sure all children have positive early experiences and get a great start in life.
The First 5 Strategy uses evidence to identify goals, objectives and the specific actions required from across Government to support children (and their families) in the early years of life. First 5 commits to major initiatives on family leave, children’s health services, parenting supports, child-friendly communities and Early Learning and Care services among a broad range of actions. The Strategy will significantly enhance early childhood and make a huge contribution to the lives of young children, society and the economy over the short, medium and long term.
A vision for early childhood
All babies’ and young children’s early years will be valued as a critical and distinct period which should be enjoyed. Families will be assisted and enabled to nurture babies and young children and support their development, with additional support for those who need it. Those providing services for babies, young children and their families will be equipped to contribute to their learning, development, health and wellbeing. Community contexts will help babies and young children make the most of their early years and fulfil their potential.
Access to a broader range of options for parents to balance working and caring
Building on the progress made during Phase 1, First 5 will deliver extended entitlements to paid leave for both fathers and mothers to ensure children can spend more time with their parents, especially in the first year. First 5 sets out plans to increase entitlements to Parent’s Leave and Benefit from 7 to 9 weeks in line with the EU Work-Life Balance Directive. By 2025, when the durations of Maternity, Paternity and Parent’s Leave are combined, it will equate to up to 46 weeks paid leave.
2. A model of parenting support
The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth’s (DCEDIY) Parenting Support Policy Unit will continue to streamline and improve existing parenting supports provided across a range of Government Departments and State Agencies through Supporting Parents: A National Model of Parenting Support Services. Parenting information resources will be consolidated on a new Supporting Parents website to promote healthy behaviours, facilitate positive play based early learning and create the conditions to form and maintain strong parent-child relationships. The DCEDIY Parenting Support Policy Unit will also develop and agree criteria for publicly-funded home-visiting programmes for babies and young children.
3. New developments in child health
This strategy is committed to developing a dedicated child health workforce, focussed initially in areas of high population density and disadvantage. A Steering Group was created by the Department of Health in 2019 to commence work on the establishment of the workforce. As a result of the re-prioritisation of work in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this work did not progress. However, the Department of Health, under the leadership of the Chief Nursing Office, has recommenced this important work.
In this next phase of First 5 implementation, there will be further measures to promote positive health behaviours and the mental health of babies, young children and their families. The delivery of these measures will be led by the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive (HSE) in partnership with other key Government Departments and State Agencies.
4. Reform of the Early Learning and Care (ELC) system
Building on the very significant developments in Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School Age Childcare (SAC) over recent years, this next phase of First 5 implementation seeks to further improve affordability, accessibility and quality. Measures include: further development of Together for Better (the new funding model for ELC and SAC), as well as implementation of Nurturing Skills, the Workforce Plan for ELC and SAC (2022-2028) and implementation of the National Action Plan for Childminding (2021-2028).
These reforms will be underpinned by a strengthened governance structure at a national and local level including preparation for the establishment of a new dedicated state agency for the sector.
5. A package of measures to tackle early childhood poverty
First 5 focuses on actions that will address poverty in early childhood. In this next phase of First 5 implementation the Equal Participation Model (EPM) will be introduced. The EPM will be the fourth element of Together for Better (which also includes the Early Childhood Care and Education Programme (ECCE), National Childcare Scheme (NCS) and Core Funding). The EPM seeks to promote equitable participation for children from all backgrounds in ELC and SAC, with a particular focus on children experiencing different forms of disadvantage. Actions also go beyond ELC and SAC settings, contributing to the delivery of relevant commitments in From Poverty to Potential: A Programme Plan for Child Poverty and Well-being 2023-2025 and Ireland’s National Action Plan under the EU Child Guarantee.
First 5 Strategy and Reporting
This Pre-school at Home Hub provides a range of activities to support and encourage children’s interests and aims to keep them playing and learning at home.
Included here are a range of typical activities that happen at pre-school which have been adapted for children to do at home, at a time that suits them and their family.
Remember, when children are playing they are learning. When children are included in everyday household activities they are learning.