Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith says the Government’s failure to act on childcare provision and costs has resulted in a major crisis in the sector. Despite the establishment of the Department of Children & Youth Affairs in 2011, the Government has not brought any tangible proposals on childcare issues forward in the intervening four years.
Deputy Smith commented, “Childcare costs are one of the biggest financial burdens being faced by families across the country. In some cases, parents are paying out more for childcare than they are for their mortgage, with the average annual cost of childcare for two children estimated at €16,200. This is a huge amount of money, for which there is no support”.
Speaking in Dáil Éireann during a Fianna Fáil Private Members Motion, Deputy Brendan Smith stated, “This motion encompasses all aspects of child care. It emphasises the importance and value of the sector, the commitment of the child care providers and their staff, the willingness of the vast majority of employees to participate in upskilling, and the welcome development over the past 16 to 17 years, in particular, of modern facilities in urban and rural areas throughout the country. The motion refers to the welcome mix of community, public and private provision in 4,300 centres across the State and rightly and accurately reflects the serious concerns of many families about the high level of child care costs.
“I am familiar with this sector, particularly in my constituency of Cavan-Monaghan. I am aware of the concerns of people in the private and community sectors. Fortunately, there is a good mix in the model of provision in my constituency. Good leadership has been shown in many communities throughout the country to source public funding to develop child care facilities. This development is complementary to the development of facilities by private providers. There was very little child care provision in my own county right up to the early 2000s. Indeed, the number of child care facilities that existed in the county until greater investment was made from the late 1990s onwards could be very quickly counted. In many communities where there was no private provision, good community activists, predominantly women, worked very hard to ensure they were in a position to draw down good State funding to develop the most modern facilities.
“We need further investment in Early Childhood Care and Education, ECCE. Our Party Spokesperson and other colleagues outlined the substantial burden that has been placed on many families. They need extra financial support, as does the sector. Many private and community facilities will find it difficult to remain viable if additional financial support is not provided.
“We also need to focus on childcare providers. There are many workers in the childcare sector who are frustrated at the lack of progress in their careers and their profession. They are responsible for helping young children to prepare for the world outside the home and for the educational process. The workforce development plan for the child care sector was launched in 2010, but little has been done to make that a reality and little has been done to lay down a career path for that workforce”, concluded Deputy Smith.