Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Children, Deputy Robert Troy, has questioned the detail of the proposals announced today on childcare, warning that the Government has made a number of claims that the small print simply does not stand up.
Deputy Troy commented, “The expansion of the early childcare care and education scheme today is not what is seems and parents should not be fooled.
“The announcements are not a Full solution to childcare affordability. The free preschool scheme only covers 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.
“These measures will do nothing to reduce the childcare bills for parents of toddlers (under 3), who will have to continue to struggle with upwards of €800 per month for a full time day care place, without any respite from the government.
Deputy Troy also warned that the much heralded expansion of the ECCE scheme was not what it seemed.
He commented, “While the government announced that children from ages 3 to 5.5yrs will be eligible to participate on the ECCE scheme, it appears that in reality this measure will do little to significantly expand the provision of preschool actually undertaken. Certainly, it is not the Universal Second Free Preschool Year that Fianna Fáil has been calling for.
“Unless Parents are willing to hold their child back starting school until they are over 5 years of age, they will not experience any extra benefit from this announcement today.
“For example, if a child begins his/her free preschool in the September of the year they turn 3, this will mean that by the September next year, will have used 38 weeks childcare, when one excludes summer and Christmas breaks (the current allocation).
“To gain an extra 38 weeks of preschool (i.e. an extra year) under the scheme, parents would have to make the decision to either re-enrol their child in preschool or enrol them in primary school by the following September, when they are over 4 years old.
“For lots of different reasons, most parents will choose to place their child in primary school, as more hours per day of childcare are provided in school than in preschool.
“Since most children who begin school between ages 4 to 41/2, they will only avail of 2 extra months preschool (for 15 hours per week or total 120 hours). This is a drop in the ocean for parents working full time and will do very little to reduce their childcare bills.
“This is restricted expansions is reflected in the Budget figures presented today, in which a package of only €47 million additional has been provided for expansion of the scheme. However a full expansion of the ECCE scheme to a second year (for 67,000 children) would actually cost in the region of €180 million according to the Department.
“Fianna Fáil is the only party to address the issue of childcare affordability head on and the only party with proposals for directly helping struggling families with the costs of childcare. The Government’s spin disintegrates under basic scrutiny and a lot of parents are going to be very angry that they have been misled in this way.”