Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Children & Youth Affairs Anne Rabbitte has expressed concern following the publication of a recent Pobal report, which revealed a number of issues across the childcare sector.

Deputy Rabbitte welcomed the finding that there has been a 13% increase in the number of children taking up a place on the Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) free preschool year between 2014/2015 and 2015/2016.

Responding to the findings, Deputy Rabbitte explained, “I am pleased that an increased number of children are taking up a place on the scheme, which provides great benefits for the kids themselves and their parents.  However, this report has highlighted a number of weaknesses in the programme, as a result of the Government’s haphazard approach to ECCE expansion.

“There are massive disparities in available places across the country – despite there are 6,659 available places, they are not in the right places, with the result that there are 6,261 children on a waiting list for a morning session place.  We need more joined-up thinking when it comes to matching the supply of ECCE places with the specific needs and demands of local communities.

“The mean cuts to the Community Childcare Subvention programme, which provides much-needed support to disadvantaged and low-income families, has seen substantial decreases in the number of children being approved for this scheme”.

With regard to the cost of childcare, Deputy Rabbitte commented, “While the average cost of a full-time place has fallen slightly since 2014, part time costs have increased by 4% since last year.  This is especially worrying for those relying on private childcare providers, which charge an average of 22% more for part-time places than their community-based counterparts.

“Fianna Fáil has continually argued for more affordable childcare, and it is disheartening to see the current government failing to adequately tackle the situation”.