Assurances needed on safety concerns and access to vaccines in Childcare sector
- The Government must clarify how childcare providers will be supported to continue care for children of essential workers.
- Childcare workers must have early access to the Covid-19 vaccine.
- Parents who have paid creche fees but cannot access the service must be compensated.
Responding to the Government proposals on childcare today, Labour spokesperson on Children, Senator Ivana Bacik, has called on the Government to address the real safety concerns of all involved in the sector; to ensure that childcare workers have early access to vaccines; and also to address the growing problem faced by many parents who have paid their creche fees, yet cannot access the service at this time.
She said: “We are receiving numerous calls from worried parents who are being expected to pay their childcare fees on an ongoing basis to secure their child’s place, despite not having access to the service currently. This issue first arose back in March 2020 and yet no sustainable solution has been found by the Government. At a time when workers are already stretched, this is an additional financial burden in a country where childcare costs are already three times that of the European average.
“Those parents affected should have their fees refunded by the service providers, and the Labour Party is now calling on the Government to meet this cost for providers.
“There must be more clarity given as to how childcare operators will be expected to provide care for the children of essential workers. Last March, the previous Government proposed a scheme to provide childcare for healthcare workers throughout the first lockdown. That scheme was shelved after only six providers signed up due to safety concerns and because it was not financially viable to provide care for such a small number of children. The same situation must not be allowed to arise again.
“Furthermore, there must be certainty given to essential workers whose children are cared for by a childminder. Will those childminders be permitted to care for multiple children from different households or will families be required to form a separate ‘childcare bubble’? The ‘childcare bubble’ proposal in its current form does not seem a practical or sustainable solution. Any solution must not add to the significant risk of further spreading the virus.
“It is vital now that Minister O’Gorman meets with childcare operators and with trade union representatives to find a workable solution for all stakeholders. We must learn from the mistakes of last year.
“COVID has further highlighted the urgent and immediate need for the introduction of a public model of childcare and early education in Ireland. Labour has repeatedly called for the development of an affordable, high-quality childcare system that reflects the reality of modern working practices – and I would urge the Minister to consider our proposals as a matter of priority.
“The continued inadequate response from the Government on this issue is failing parents, staff, providers – and ultimately children.”