Standing up for families by making childcare affordable – Conway

10 February 2016

Last year, Joan Burton asked me to chair a working group within the labour party to come up with a plan for quality and affordable childcare.

We consulted widely within the Party, and more importantly within our local communities and this process of engagement gave us a very clear insight as to just what the problems are, and a clear direction as to how they could be tackled.

The report that the group produced was presented to the party policy committee and has formed the backbone of the proposals that we are publishing today.

We all know that raising children requires huge effort. It requires time, money, lots of energy and love. And let’s face it. There has never been appropriate investment by the state in our youngest children. As a country we have never really tackled the issue of early childhood care and education.

While resources went into child benefit, we have never committed enough funding to this key area.

As things begin to turn around it’s clear that we have to prioritise doing more when it comes to supporting families raise their children in Ireland.

Just as there are many different types of families in Ireland, there are many different forms of childcare.

What suits one family might not work for the next. We want to make sure that families and parents still have the many excellent varied and different childcare options available to them in the future – this is not about dictating to parents about how they should raise their children or what childcare system they should use.

This is about supporting parents in their choices and making things that bit easier for working families.

We want to build on the first-rate childcare models that are already in existence across Ireland. Families should be able to choose what is right for them.

Ensuring high quality care and education also means that the childcare providers and all workers in the sector need to feel valued and feel that they have an opportunity to progress in their chosen career. One thing we are sure of is that children need to be at the heart of any childcare system.

The quality of the care and education that our children receive is of the utmost importance and it’s time we made commitments to ensure that there is enough funding and resources in place to ensure our children get the care and education that they rightly deserve.

As a parent myself, I understand only too clearly, the pressures that families come under when it comes to childcare, and if returned to power, Labour will stand up for families by reducing the cost of childcare and making it affordable for all.

* We will cap childcare for parents at €4.25 per hour.

* We will progressively increase state subsidy so that the cost to parents is reduced to nor more than €2 per hour by 2021.

* We will increase paid parental leave by three months to be shared between both parents.

* We will transform the quality of early years care and education with greater funding for providers with highly qualified staff

* We will provide all staff with one hour of paid time each week to plan their work.

Investment in early education and care is not only crucial for the future development of the child but it also facilitates parents, especially mothers, either to remain in or take up employment.

We in Labour believe that there needs to be appropriate investment by the state in our youngest children. It is clear that we have to do more when it comes to supporting families raise their children.

There is no one-size fits all solution to the issue of childcare in Ireland today. It is clear however that we need to ensure that our children are provided with the best quality childcare that is within the means of all.



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