Budget 2022 opportunity to pave way for universal childcare model

14 September 2021

Labour spokesperson on children Deputy Ivana Bacik has backed Early Childhood Ireland’s call for a roadmap to reform for the childcare sector. Deputy Bacik has called on Government to signal its support for children, families and the sector in this year’s budget by properly resourcing the early years sector and taking steps towards the introduction of a universal public childcare system.

Deputy Bacik said:

“Over decades, the failure of successive governments to take responsibility for a national childcare policy has resulted in the emergency of a piecemeal, laissez-faire system with the highest proportion of private providers in the OECD. I am fully in support of Early Childhood Ireland’s call for a roadmap to reform the early years sector which is just not working and is failing workers in the sector, parents, and ultimately, children.

“Families throughout the country are reporting increased childcare costs of up to 20% in recent months which is simply unsustainable and unaffordable for the majority. With approximately 300,000 children in the 0-4 age group, and around two-thirds of them using some form of childcare service at present there is a major public policy crisis emerging. In 2020 we put forward plans for the phased introduction of a truly universal public childcare system and I am calling on Government to again commit to this aim and to take the necessary steps involving increased funding and resourcing of the childcare and Early Years sector.

“When compared to other small open economies in Europe, Ireland’s female labour force participation rate is among the lowest and remains below the pre-crisis levels. This is in large part due to unaffordable childcare costs, which have risen, despite early-childhood care and education scheme subsidies. Many parents in Dublin pay as much as €1,000 per month per child. We need to bring Ireland into line with our European neighbours when it comes to childcare. The current model is not working for anyone.

“With costs for parents rapidly increasing while wages for professional staff in the sector remain stagnant, there must be a public policy response. It is time for the introduction of universal public childcare.

“Budget 2022 offers Government an opportunity to give parents, workers and providers a roadmap to providing universal public childcare in the State. Investment to bring all early years workers’ pay up to at least a Living Wage and to increase affordability for parents, as well as the creation of a new public service model, funded by staffing grants would make a significant different for workers and families alike.

“A radical overhaul is needed to address systemic failings in our national care system. ‘Childcare’ must be seen as an integral part of a State-funded education service; not just a private optional add-on for a minority of parents. The costs to parents and status of workers, many of whom live on less than the living wage is a constant issue. Let’s give them the answers they deserve by working together on real solutions.”

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