Governments around the world stand at a crossroads. Faced with an enormous financial burden and new social challenges on the horizon, governments are looking for new institutional solutions that will enable them to do more with less. In many countries, the voluntary sector has become a key pillar in new administrative reforms. Indeed, most governments recognize that the voluntary sector is a critical part of their ability to develop and maintain economic strength and social wellbeing within communities. Yet the kind of supports the sector ultimately receives varies across settings.
This year's conference proposes an opportunity to reflect on the present and possible future roles of the voluntary sector in the face of shifting governmental roles. It is important to pay attention to these dynamics because they have the potential to redefine the relationship between administration and citizens. Comprising international speakers with valuable insight from an academic, practitioner and policy perspective, the conference will allow participants to hear and comment upon the patterns of policy change and continuity in any country.
The broad objectives of the conference are to:
- learn from international experience to date;
- take stock of current trends, policy continuity and change;
- inform the Canadian agenda on social policy reform.
The conference will bring together a wide range of organisations and individuals to discuss ideas on what the next National Children's Strategy should say about early childhood policies in Ireland.
The First Six Years. The focus of the conference will be policies that impact on all children in their first six years, including childminding, the Free Pre-School Year, parenting supports, workforce development, Siolta and Aistear, public health nursing, parental leave policies, and supports for children with special needs.
The Next Six Years. The next National Children's Strategy is to be published in 2012 and will run through until 2017 - six years from now. Even at a time of economic crisis, a 6-year time-frame offers scope for real progress. We will not achieve our long-term vision in the next six years, but we can make practical proposals on ways to move early childhood policies steadily in the right direction.
Confirmed contributors include:
* Professor Iram Siraj-Blatchford (Professor of Education, Institute of Education, London)
* Professor Noirin Hayes (Head of School of Social Sciences and Law, Dublin Institute of Technology)
* Senator Jillian Van Turnhout (Chair, Early Childhood Ireland)
* Mary Doyle (Assistant Secretary, Department of Children and Youth Affairs)
* Dr Mathias Urban (Reader in Education, University of East London)
* Maggie Simpson (Chief Executive, Scottish Childminding Association)
Workshops will take place on a range of key policy issues.