Galway East Deputy Michael Kitt has told the Dáil that families must be given some support to deal with the ever increasing cost childcare.
He was speaking on a Fianna Fáil motion which proposes a tax break for families who are struggling with childcare costs. The motion demands much greater access to affordable childcare for all families, to help ease the burden on working parents.
“Unless the issue of childcare costs is addressed, particularly for lower income families, we will see a much greater number of children being cared for through private arrangements. But private childcare is totally unregulated, with no qualifications needed, no inspections and no specific standards required. We need to ensure that crèches and preschools, which are regulated, are affordable options for more families,” said Deputy Kitt.
“A recent report by Indecon examining the cost of childcare in Ireland shows that a quarter of Irish parents have been prevented from returning to work or training due to prohibitive childcare costs. The figures show that childcare costs account for about 29% of net income for a couple, and almost 50% of net income for lone parents. This is much higher than the EU average of 9.8% and 9% respectively for couples and lone parents.
“Ireland has the second highest childcare costs in the OECD when taken as a percentage of wages. The cost of childcare can exceed mortgage payments as the largest monthly bill for families with young children. The financial pressure involved in childcare means that thousands of working parents, particularly mothers, face a stark choice of quitting work due to the high cost of childcare, or continuing their careers while losing money. We all know that many households have less money at this time.
“There have been many positive developments in early childhood care and education, especially since the year 2000 when extra capacity was provided. Between 2000 and 2007, some 40,000 child care places were provided under the equal opportunities child care programme. However, we are less advanced than our European counterparts and this must be addressed.
“As a first step, we are asking the Government to take the 35,000 lower-income families who are on the Family Income Supplement (FIS) and give them a tax-break to help ease the burden of childcare. In the longer-term, we need a radical overhaul of childcare provision in this country to make it much more affordable for working families.”