Creche closures, high fees, lack of places – time for equal early years
Today, during Questions on Policy or Legislation with the Taoiseach, Labour Leader and TD for Dublin Bay South Ivana Bacik highlighted the crisis in childcare, and called for the adoption 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 emergence of a piecemeal system with the highest proportion of private providers in the OECD. Scarce creche places and soaring childcare costs mean that parents in Dublin are routinely paying as much as €1,000 per month per child. I have paid kudos to the Minster for Children for progress he has made in the past.
“However, high fees and below-average levels of state investment have been accompanied by chronically low wages for those working in the sector. Current childcare policies are failing parents, staff, providers – and ultimately children.
“In my own constituency, and across the country, parents have been left scrambling due to the widespread closure of childcare facilities. It is cause for immense frustration for parents as they search for another facility, or are forced to rely on family and friends to look after their children. This sort of uncertainty is a huge impediment to the career prospects of women, in particular.
“During a cost of living crisis of the magnitude of the one we are currently experiencing, families need to know if they will be able to take on paid work, and how much they will have to pay for childcare. That is not to mention the effect on small providers who are struggling to stay open during this difficult time. Also affected are the early years educators who face redundancy when a facility closes.
“As part of Budget 2023, the Government has secured a discount of approximately 25% off fees for parents. However, this reduction will be of a lesser rate for the parents who are already paying the most. Clearly, this will disadvantage parents in parts of the country where fees are higher, such as in Dublin where parents can expect to shell out approximately €1,000 per month per child. Indeed, this figure is significantly higher in some areas. As much will become abundantly clear to parents who will feel the post-Christmas pinch in January.
“Instead, the Government should adopt Labour’s policy and cap childcare costs at just €200 per month. In addition, the Government should adopt our policy, first proposed by Labour Women, and move towards a system of universal, public childcare. We need serious investment in the development of high quality early-years education, so as to guarantee each child in Ireland a state-funded pre-school place. While I welcome the Taoiseach’s offer of engagement on the specific issue of creche closures where there is an acute need, systemic change is now needed. Childcare should be seen as an integral part of a state-funded education system.”