12 October 2016

Despite being touted as the centrepiece of Budget 2017, the Government’s childcare package has failed to deliver the best possible outcome for children, says Labour TD and Spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs, Jan O’Sullivan.

“There was much hype that children would be the main beneficiaries of this year’s Budget, but as more details become known, the question begs, where is the money?

While Minister Zappone’s plan for a single affordable childcare scheme is welcome, the €32m allocated falls short of the €82m provided last year for the second free pre-school year.

In government, Joan Burton allocated €72m to increase Child Benefit by €5 per child, and €18 to raise income thresholds for Family Income Supplements.

Furthermore as Education Minister, I set aside €18m to reduce class size at primary and post-primary levels, and bring them back to pre-crisis level. But Minister Bruton has missed an opportunity in this year’s Budget to continue on this path and reduce class sizes further.

Overall children have had a poor deal.

The quality of early childcare and education crucially depends on qualified and committed staff. The low level of pay in the sector has been repeatedly raised by bodies like Early Childhood Ireland. Dedicated early years educators, many of them with degree and above level qualifications are on minimum wage. The miserly 10 cent per hour increase to the minimum wage is an insult, and many who enter this sector full of enthusiasm just can’t sustain themselves and have to move on.

Labour’s alternative budget allocated €62.6m to raise pay levels for childcare workers.”

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