On 14 December 2022, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, has today published a report, which collates data in relation to the goals and objectives of the First 5 Strategy (2019-2028).
Speaking about today’s report, Minister O’Gorman said
“this report provides us with a comprehensive evidence base that can inform the ongoing implementation of the First 5 strategy, a whole of Government strategy to improve the lives of babies, young children and families over a ten year period up to 2028. By providing all the available data in one publication, the spotlight holds Government objectives to account. It shines a light on where targets are on track and also points us in the direction of where more work is required to give effect to the ambitious goals we have set to support families and communities and make sure babies and young children get a great start in life and have positive early experiences.”
Some of the key findings from the report are
- In 2016, there were 403,919 children aged 5 and under living in Ireland, accounting for 8.5% of the population. It is estimated that this figure dropped to 365,617 children in 2021.
- The percentage of children aged 5 and under living in jobless households has decreased from q4 2018 to q4 2021.
- The share of households with children aged 5 and under that availed of some form of remote working increased from 10% pre-Covid to 46% post-Covid.
- The number of children referred to a Family Support Service decreased from 2019 to 2021, although the percentage of referred children who received a service increased during this time, as did the number of Child and Family Support Networks.
- The at-risk of poverty rate; consistent poverty rate; and deprivation rate among this age group (0-5) all experienced a large reduction from 2017 to 2021.
- The share of children aged 5 and under experiencing food poverty also decreased between 2017 and 2019, although the percentage experiencing energy poverty increased during this time.
- The mean length of a maternity stay in hospital from 2017-2019 was 2.7 days for maternities with non-preterm infants, and ranged from 12.5-12.8 days for maternities with preterm infants.
- Mothers born in the EU15 (excluding Ireland and the UK) had the highest rates of exclusive breastfeeding at discharge during this time, while mothers born in Ireland had the lowest rates.
- Acute bronchiolitis was the most common in-patient diagnosis among this age group in 2018 and 2019, while disorders related to short gestation and low birth weight were the most common in 2020.
- The number of children aged 5 and under on in-patient waiting lists increased from 2019 to 2021; and the number waiting more than one year almost doubled during this time.
- The percentage of early years educators with a level 7 qualification or higher increased between 2018/19 and 2020/21.
- The number of children enrolled in ELC settings and the number of children on ELC waiting lists have both increased from 2016/17 to 2018/19.
- The percentage of children in mainstream junior infant classes who came from a childcare setting or pre-primary education increased from 2018/19 to 2020/21.
- The most common ethnicity among entrants to junior infants from 2018 to 2020 was “white Irish”, while the least common was “black/black Irish with a non-African background”.
Notes for the Editor
First 5 is a constituent strategy of Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures (BOBF), which sets out an ambitious agenda across Government to improve outcomes for children and young people aged 0–24. BOBF is the National Policy Framework for Children and Young People (2014–2020). For more information, see https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/775847-better-outcomes-brighter-futures/ First 5 reinforces commitments made in BOBF to deliver improvements across the five national outcomes (Active and healthy; Achieving in learning; Safe and protected; Economically secure; and Connected, respected and contributing).
First 5 uses evidence to identify the goals, objectives and the specific actions that will be taken across Government to support babies, young children and their families. Four main goals are identified in the Strategy:
- Goal A: Strong and supportive families and communities
- Goal B: Optimum physical and mental health
- Goal C: Positive play-based early leaning
- Goal D: An effective early childhood system
The Strategy identifies nine main objectives to achieve Goals A, B and C, as well as five building blocks to assist with the implementation of Goal D Strategic Actions related to Strategy implementation, rather than objectives, are used to support Goal D. There are 14 Strategic Actions in total, which align to the five building blocks under Goal D. These Strategic Actions are not covered in this Spotlight.. The nine Objectives relate to: helping parents to balance working and caring responsibilities; providing information, services and supports for parents; providing practical and material resources to parents; promoting positive health behaviours; providing high quality health services; encouraging positive mental health; supporting a positive home learning environment; providing affordable and high quality Early Learning and Care (ELC); and supporting transitions to primary school.
BOBF is the National Policy Framework for Children and Young People (2014–2020). For more information, see https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/775847-better-outcomes-brighter-futures/
2 Strategic Actions related to Strategy implementation, rather than objectives, are used to support Goal D. There are 14 Strategic Actions in total, which align to the five building blocks under Goal D. These Strategic Actions are not covered in this Spotlight.