Fianna Fáil Press Office
Lorraine Clifford-Lee
Dublin Fingal

27 November 2015

Govt funding not enough for ‘free’ childcare scheme – Clifford-Lee

Fianna Fáil candidate for Dublin Fingal Lorraine Clifford-Lee says that the Government is not providing enough funding for the so-called ‘free’ childcare and that parents are being asked to pay up to €150 a month in extra fees.

She said she had been told by childcare professionals that the government subsidy is insufficient to fund childcare that meets regulatory standards, and that smaller crèches and nurseries will be forced to close.

Under the Early Childhood Care and Education scheme parents are entitled to three hours of free childcare, including education, every day for the school year. Under the existing scheme, children get 38 weeks of free preschool between the ages of three years and two months, and four years and seven months.

Last month the government announced in the Budget that the scheme would be extended. From September next year, all children will be offered a free preschool place from the age of three to five and a half, or until they begin primary school.

Childcare providers receive a subsidy of €62.50 per child per week for 38 weeks. If staff have advanced childcare qualifications, the subsidy can increase to €73 per week.

“Some of the childcare professionals I spoke to said that the funding being offered by the Government would barely cover basic wages and does not cover any specific activities or standards that would meet the requirements of TUSLA.

“They also warned that the free preschool scheme has almost destroyed the independent childcare sector with some smaller concerns having to let staff go during summer holiday periods,” added Ms Clifford-Lee.

“I have spoken to a number of parents who were asked to pay ‘optional’ fees of up to €150 a month for three hours of care every weekday. The Government needs to take a proper look at this scheme and make it more realistic for families. Ever since the Budget I have been questioning the details of the Scheme and I warned that the small print simply does not stand up.

The Dublin Fingal candidate commented, “The expansion of the early childcare care and education scheme is not what is seems and parents should not be fooled. The scheme is not a full solution to childcare affordability. It covers only 3 hours per day for 38 weeks, which means that parents working longer than 15 hours per week (or during the summer) have to pay for other childcare arrangements.

“The scheme has done nothing to reduce the childcare bills for parents of toddlers (under 3), who will have to continue to struggle with upwards of €900 per month for a full time day care place, without any respite from the government,” added Ms Clifford-Lee.