John Pratt calls for Public Childcare Scheme

24 January 2020

Better pay for childcare workers and lower costs for providers also among key proposals.

The Labour Party has today published our proposals for a public childcare scheme for working parents, alongside measures to improve pay for workers in the sector, increased oversight and proposals to reduce costs for providers.

Commenting on the Labour Party’s plans, Labour candidate for Waterford, Cllr. John Pratt, said:

“Ireland is a very expensive place to raise a family, with childcare costs one of the most financially draining aspects for working parents today. Despite four years of promises from the outgoing Government, childcare costs still remain hugely expensive, and there is a major shortage of places impacting on parents.

“Currently, parents are paying three times the average EU cost. The decision by Fianna Fáil to provide a tax credit will do little to benefit the sector as it won’t address increasing costs and will reward those who earn most, rather than make the service more affordable.

“The lack of an affordable-high quality childcare scheme is forcing many parents to choose between work and their children. There is also a shortage of childcare places in many parts of the country, while childcare workers are not being paid enough and falling below the Living Wage. It is very clear that the current childcare model is not working.

“The Labour Party wants to develop a public Childcare Scheme for Working Parents, because parents should never have to choose between their children and their job. The costs to parents would be moderate and set at the EU average level of childcare costs.

“In the first phase, we will target parents who cannot currently work because of the prohibitive cost of childcare.”

“The service will include early drop-off times and late collection to reflect modern work practices and commute times, and be based on best practice education, play and early learning.”

“Only appropriately regulated and inspected childminding services will be eligible to provide Government funded schemes, which will prioritise community-led, not-for-profit childcare models.”

“This scheme is the first step towards Labour’s vision of a universal public childcare service for all parents, which ultimately will replace other existing schemes and subsidies.”

“It’s time to give working families a break when it comes to childcare and not make it a choice between work and their children.”


Details of the Labour Party policy is available here: 


What’s the issue?

Childcare in Ireland is far too expensive, and the high costs are forcing many parents to choose between working full time and staying at home. In Dublin, childcare is as much as €1,400/ month in places for young babies.

This particularly impacts women, with a lack of affordable childcare a major contributor to the gender pay gap of around 14%.

It’s also becoming more difficult to secure a creche space for babies, with many parents being told they need to enrol their children in the early stages of pregnancy.

The simple fact is the current model is not working. We need to try something new and bring Ireland into line with our European neighbours when it comes to childcare.

What’s our solution?

Labour wants to make high quality, affordable childcare a reality for working parents, while also paying childcare workers what they deserve to be paid- the Living Wage at a minimum.

Our ‘Childcare for Working Parents Scheme’ will consist of a State-led programme of comprehensive care for children, while enabling both parents to work full-time.

How will the service work?

The service will include early drop-off times and late collection to reflect modern work practices and commute times, and be based on best practice education, play and early learning.

We expect the service to be delivered through a mix of pre-existing premises and new premises.

For example, some primary schools have a ‘preschool’ room that could be used for this purpose. Some local authorities also have creche facilities built into local community centres.

What’s the cost to parents?

Crucially, the costs to parents would be moderate and set at the EU average level of childcare costs. As it stands, parents in Ireland are paying 3.4 times the EU average.

What’s the cost to the State and how will we pay for it?

The approximate cost of the pilot programme is €60 million, to be funded through existing tax revenue.

That’s €10,000 per child, based on the assumption that half the premises to be used will already be state-owned. There might also be an initial capital cost to prepare sites, and a further allocation of €20 million will be made available for that.

We’d roll it out on a pilot basis to start, and if the take-up is high, have a public discussion on what it would cost to scale it up.

Who will it benefit?

There are around 300,000 children in the 0-4 age group. To start, the pilot will cater for around 6,000 children, targeted initially at parents who can’t afford to work and pay for childcare costs.

How do I know if I’m eligible?

The application process will be one where a person declares their potential income and shows two quotes from commercial childcare services.

Initially, if the childcare cost is more than 30% of the parent’s net income, s/he is eligible for inclusion in this scheme. Note, a spouse’s income is NOT included, so this is a means-test focused on the parent who would otherwise be working.

Parents will also have to live, with their children, within proximity to one of the pilot centres.

What about childcare workers?

We’ll ensure that childcare workers are paid what they deserve and guarantee at least the Living Wage for all staff. If we want a high-quality service with low turnaround, then we need to pay staff properly.

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