Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs Anne Rabbitte has criticised the Government for its shallow showmanship of the ECCE scheme and the lack of support it has provided for parents.

“At the time of announcement, the Government made it seem as if this was a radical expansion of the ECCE scheme, one which would allow every child and parent to enjoy two years of free pre-school.  In reality, this scheme has translated, for many children, to just three extra months of free childcare—a far cry from a second year”, said Deputy Rabbitte.

“The Government failed to close a loophole in the ECCE system, which means that children can only be enrolled on the ECCE scheme at three annual intervals – September, January and April.  This means that a child born in February will only benefit from an extra 20 weeks of childcare before they transition to primary school aged 4.5 years.

“I have been contacted by parents who are confused and frustrated by this loophole, and who simply cannot understand why their child, who is now three years old, cannot access childcare. We are all well-versed in how formal childcare is an important experience and resource for young children and their parents, and the government negligence of the scheme is truly baffling.

“Fianna Fáil has continually called for better supports for parents and children. Under our proposals, children aged over 2.5 years would have access to an extra 38 weeks of free pre-school, to be used at their parents’ discretion. This would have made far more sense, as it would have allowed parents to schedule their child’s enrolment to take full advantage of the ECCE scheme.”