Group says offsetting childcare costs is job of government, not parents
Responding to the latest developments in Government negotiations that parties are considering giving more money to parents to offset crèche fees, the Children’s Rights Alliance alongside Early Childhood Ireland, National Women’s Council and SIPTU warn against this retrograde approach that will "set us back years in the development of a truly affordable, high-quality childcare system."
Speaking on these developments, Teresa Heeney, Chief Executive of Early Childhood Ireland commented: “It is alarming to hear about a return to direct payment to parents. This would be a backward step and will not address the key issue of Ireland’s historical underinvestment in early years. The next government’s focus must remain on building a publicly subsidised and sustainable childcare system; one which guarantees quality for children, security for operators and a strong career structure for early years educators. Otherwise, the progress of the last few years will have been wasted and Ireland will remain at the bottom of the EU investment league.”
Darragh O’Connor, SIPTU Head of Strategic Organising said, “The Early Years sector is in the middle of a staffing and low pay crisis. With the majority of workers earning below the Living Wage it is unsurprising that staff turnover is 40% on average in full day services. This directly undermines quality for children. Direct payments to parents will do nothing to improve quality for children; we need real investment and reform.”
Director of the National Women’s Council of Ireland, Orla O’Connor added, “This is a critical moment to establish a sustainable system of state funding of ECEC in Ireland, which is essential for both the predominantly female workforce and for women and families. We cannot go back to having the highest childcare fees in Europe, alongside some of the lowest-paid workers. Direct payments to parents are a step backwards - they will lead to unequal access, make it harder for women to stay in or re-enter the workforce and do not sustain high-quality early years into the future.”
Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children Rights Alliance said, “We have been calling for new thinking and greater investment in the early years sector, but this is not what we envisioned. A streamlined regulation system for the sector and pay increases for staff being discussed by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party are welcome ideas, and we would view them as essential components to the new programme for government. However, we are very concerned that these plans may also include giving money to parents to offset crèche fees. This would set the sector back years and flies in the face of international evidence on what’s best for children. Funding needs to go directly to services. We as a people will get a better return on our investment.”
The coalition has written a letter to political parties on its priorities for the programme for government and the provision of quality, affordable and accessible childcare.