Budget 2021 not ‘equality-proofed’ – no funding increase for childcare
- no increase in funding for childcare sector.
- Not enough done for Disability and early years to deliver transformational change.
Labour Seanad Group Leader and Spokesperson for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Senator Ivana Bacik has welcomed aspects of Budget 2021 but has said that it was not “equality-proofed” to ensure that it met the needs of those on the margins of Irish society.
Senator Bacik said:
“It is often said that there is no better opportunity than a crisis. While there is much to welcome in the Budget package announced by the Government today, it is clear that the Government has not seized upon this opportunity to advance a real equality agenda. For the disability and childcare/early years sectors in particular, not enough has been done to deliver transformational change for people in Ireland.
“This year has placed persons with a disability under more strain than usual, with Covid-19 providing a devastating blow to day services and respite services. Following a disappointing July Stimulus and HSE Winter Plan, those who rely on the State’s disability services will be somewhat relieved today by new financial supports announced. However, these must also be accompanied by practical supports for people with disabilities. The €150 increase in the Carers Respite Grant is a step in the right direction but most respite services remain closed due to Covid-19. Similarly, users of day services will know that they cannot operate at full capacity, given the pandemic and ongoing funding shortages.
“In terms of targeted measures for young people, it is welcome to see that, as in Labour’s alternative budget, the Government will allocate €5 million to youth work in Ireland. However, there is a glaring absence in Budget 2021 when it comes to Ireland’s children and their parents and families. With no increase in funding to the childcare sector, Minister O’Gorman must to clarify an intention to move towards a system of universal, public childcare. Covid-crisis or not, childcare fees in Ireland are among the highest in the EU and OECD, while wages for early years professionals and levels of State investment remain among the lowest across Europe.
“An extra three weeks of parental leave will take pressure off new parents but, for many, it will simply postpone the decision as to who will need to give up working to care for a child due to the exorbitant cost of childcare. The decision not to even begin a substantial move towards a universal, publicly funded system is perplexing indeed.
“Lastly, more action was needed on the minimum wage. An increase of only 10c falls short of what is needed by workers on low pay who are overwhelmingly young, women, from a migrant background and working part-time. Many of these workers have been on the frontlines during the pandemic; they have stepped up to ensure that everyone in the country was fed and cared for throughout but, as my colleague Ged Nash TD said in the Dáil today, ‘a candle in the window won’t heat the house’. Their selflessness and hard work should have been acknowledged more substantively by the State.
“The National Women’s Council have said that Budget 2021 does not pave the way for a feminist recovery. Unfortunately, this rings true; there is a noticeable lack of support in this Budget for mothers, women workers and carers. While several measures announced will alleviate some of the impact of the Covid-19 crisis for certain sectors, ultimately today is a missed opportunity to deliver a new social contract for communities across Ireland.”