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Advocacy in Action Jan 4th 2018 introduction

January 4, 2018

Early Childhood Ireland (ECI) was very disillusioned to see this kite being flown by two government TDs just as 2018 began, suggesting parents who employ a childminder in their own home receive a tax break. 

As we stated in the media in response, it is difficult to see how a tax break would address the major problem in Ireland, which is recognised and accepted by all the experts: a historically low level of public investment, which sees Ireland at the bottom of every international league table of early years spending. ECI would also like to know if this proposal signals a significant change in current government policy, which had been moving in the direction of increased public investment in early years through the ‘Affordable Childcare’ scheme? 

Further, a tax measure as outlined in this proposal would not, for example, apply to those not in the workforce, such as students and others who fall outside the tax net.  This raises questions of equality, and flies in the face of the stated government policy goal, which seeks to address child poverty through increased investment in early years education.

It is also not clear how the proposal would fit with an existing taxation arrangement which allows home-based childminders to earn up to €15,000 tax free or indeed where the ECCE scheme would fit in? The latter has become an integral part of the lives of a huge majority of families with young children.

While parental choice and affordability are significant issues, as stated by the two TDs, the safety and wellbeing of our youngest children are surely of greater and paramount concern. Currently fewer than 200 childminders are Tusla-registered, and it is ECI’s position that any financial supports, provided by the public purse, should only be made available to those who have met those basic requirements. Indeed, we see Affordable Childcare as a huge opportunity to bring more and more childminders under the Tusla umbrella.  It is imperative that the two TDs clarify that they intend that only registered minders would be included in any tax break scenario. For this reason, and so that we and others can engage fully with this proposal, Early Childhood Ireland calls on the two TDs to publish their proposal in full as soon as possible, so that an informed public discussion can take place, ahead of any move to change early years supports in this very worrying way.

In this month’s Advocacy in Action our feature piece is on the Childcare Support Bill, which was presented before the Houses of the Oireachtas in December and is designed to provide the statutory basis for the Affordable Childcare Scheme. In the piece we note that work is under way to introduce regulations to school age childcare to enable stand-alone school age services to register with Tusla and thus participate in the scheme. We also note that an expert group on childminding is expected to report imminently on how childminders can also be regulated and brought into the scope of the Affordable Childcare Scheme.

Also this month we have a brand new Summing it Up Infographic which profiles early years services, Oireachtas Watch keeps you abreast of Oireachtas questions and debates relevant to the early years sector and we keep you up-to-date with our ongoing representational work, including an update from the AIM Cross Sectoral Implementation Group. We hope you enjoy this edition of Advocacy in Action.

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