Budget 2022 wasted chance for a radical new approach to care systems
- Childcare package a welcome increase, but a vision for universal, public childcare lacking
- Additional funding to disability services welcome, but opportunity for radical change missed
Following its publication, Ivana Bacik TD has said that Budget 2022 is a missed opportunity for a New Deal for Care in Ireland.
Deputy Bacik said:
“It was a collective effort, purpose, solidarity and dedication that cared for our sick and kept us safe and fed throughout the past 18 months. However, the pandemic magnified a lot of what was already wrong in our society and our economic model. To build back better suggests the recent past was a good place, when that is not the case for too many people. Beyond pandemic times, it remains true that our society is only ever as strong as its weakest link; so now is the time to fix our care failures and move beyond traditional voluntary models.
“It was disappointing to see an allocation of just €78m for childcare, when €100m had been teased through leaks in recent weeks. Changes to the National Childcare Scheme, measures to address low pay for workers and fees, and additional subsidies for working families and unemployed people are welcome. However, Budget 2022 falls short of tackling the piecemeal, laissez-faire system which has emerged out of successive governments’ refusal to introduce a system of universal, public childcare. I was proud to attend the launch of Labour Women’s campaign for Equal Early Years earlier this month. They are calling for the introduction of such a model for Early Years, as well as for a 1% of GDP spend on Early Years, up from Ireland’s current spend of just 0.3%.
“Many parents will be pleased at the extension of Parent’s Leave and Benefit, but providing additional leave cannot be a band-aid to disguise the fact that fees make childcare inaccessible for families across the country. Indeed, many parents will not benefit from this measure because the social welfare payment is insufficient for those keeping up with the spiralling cost of living, and housing in particular. This is particularly brought into focus given the exclusion of new measures to help renters from this Budget.
“Labour would develop a universal public childcare system starting with a €60m pilot in 2022. We would ensure every childcare worker is paid a living wage and is entitled to sick pay. We would increase the universal subsidy by €1 per hour, resulting in a direct annual saving for parents of €2,340. We would also double the length of dedicated paternity leave available to new fathers up to four weeks, and would provide for a further 3 weeks of paid parental leave.
“Carers are at their limit in Ireland. They want to be family members, spouses, neighbours and friends, not unpaid nurses, SNAs, and occupational therapists. During the pandemic, Ireland’s carers saved lives, but too many receive little or no support from the State. Labour would increase the income disregard and respite grant to support their invaluable work.
“While the €105m increase in funding for disability services is welcome, it is not enough to address unmet need for services as outlined in the recent Disability Capacity Review, which suggested an investment of €350m is needed in 2022 to meet demographic and unmet demand. In addition, no allocation is made to address the real care needs of many older persons who would prefer to be cared for at home rather than in institutional settings. I have called for a “new fair deal” to prioritise home supports over nursing home care.
“History shows us that global disruptions on this scale usher in era-shaping change. It is up to us how that change happens. Nothing short of a New Deal for the people of Ireland is needed. More than 70 years ago, out of the ruins of the WWII, the National Health Service was launched in Britain by Attlee’s Labour government – providing universal healthcare, paid for through taxation, free at the point of access. Out of the devastation caused by Covid-19, we have the chance to build such a legacy here in Ireland’s care sector. Ireland risks wasting its chance for a radical new approach to care systems, as was done in education by former Minister for Education Donogh O’Malley. I will continue to call for a New Deal for care, as I know my Labour Party colleagues will.”