April 12, 2017
New measures to make childcare more affordable welcome, but providers may now face even greater pressure
Disappointing that 9,000 families will miss out on a €12 subsidy in the short term
The announcement today of plans which will deliver more affordable childcare from this September are a welcome development, but may have the adverse effect of placing childcare providers under even greater pressure at a time when many are struggling to survive, Early Childhood Ireland has said.
Ministers Zappone and Varadkar revealed details which will see more than 70,000 families benefit from reduced childcare costs from September.
Commenting on the plans, Early Childhood Ireland, CEO, Teresa Heeney said;
“The measures announced today are a welcome step in the right direction. They will help ease the onerous financial burden on parents who are currently paying some of the highest childcare costs in the world. They will also help to facilitate those parents who may be keen to return to the labour market or avail of educational opportunities but haven’t been able to due to the prohibitive cost of childcare. Furthermore, we very much support the targeted nature of the funding which will mean the highest level of support will go to families with the lowest incomes.
However, worryingly, the plans are likely to place even greater demands on childcare services which are already facing a recruitment crisis and struggling to survive due to the chronic levels of underfunding.
We know from our members that due to low wages and precarious working conditions recruiting and retaining high quality staff is a massive challenge. Indeed, according to recent research1 conducted by Early Childhood Ireland, we found that 86% of services said that they were concerned that problems recruiting and retaining staff will impact on their viability.
Therefore, we are concerned that today’s announcement will increase expectations of parents while at the same time it will put pressure on the sector which cannot deliver due to the inability to attract staff. Remember, staff in this sector earn an average of €11.70 per hour and many have to go on the dole for the Summer months. This is simply not sustainable.
When it comes to childcare; affordability for parents, quality for children and sustainability for childcare operators are all interlinked. Until the issue of decent pay and proper conditions for childcare professionals are addressed, we simply won’t have a high-quality, functional system of childcare in this county.”
It was also announced that both Departments are working with Pobal and Revenue to build a fully automated online system which will ultimately be used to access and administer childcare supports and support the roll out of the Affordable Childcare Scheme. However, this system won’t be ready in time for September.
Teresa Heeney said;
“It’s a little disappointing that IT and administrative arrangements won’t be in place to deliver the Affordable Childcare Scheme as soon as was expected which means that 9,000 families will miss out on a €12 subsidy in the short term. However, we intend to work with the relevant bodies to help make sure the scheme becomes a reality.”
Among other measures announced today is a public information campaign which aims to ensure that everyone who needs to find out more will be able to. Early Childhood Ireland has pledged to work with both the Departments of Children and Youth Affairs and the Department of Social Protection to ensure that its 3,600 members are properly informed of the new arrangements.
Early Childhood Ireland represents over 3,600 childcare members who support over 100,000 children and their families through preschool, afterschool and full day-care provision nationwide. Its work includes quality enhancement, publications, advocacy, training, business support and information for a sector that employs 25,000 people today.
For further information
Daniel English, Early Childhood Ireland
Tel: 086-144 8768
NOTES TO EDITOR