A major Fine Gael survey on the ‘Care of the Child’ has found the most important role of the State is to ensure availability and affordability.
Almost 2,400 respondents (81% whom are parents) took part in the online survey, established by Fine Gael’s Policy Lab, over the last two months.
Chairman of Fine Gael’s Parliamentary Party Richard Bruton, who established the Policy Lab, said it aims to allow a much wider range of people to input into policy formation, so those who know the problems first-hand are heard.
“This is the first in a series of engagements on various issues that affect Irish life. It is an approach which should also inform many other policy choices which will have a profound impact on our country’s future,” said Deputy Bruton
A total of 2,372 people responded to the survey of whom 81% are parents and 48% of these have children under the age of five. A total of 62% of respondents are aged between 35 and 54. More than one in three respondents were service providers, or people who work in the childcare sector.
Some of the main findings were:
- 76% feel the most important role of the State is to ‘ensure availability and affordability’
- In terms of flexibility – 45% agree that providers offer flexibility, with 27% disagreeing
- Three out of four are satisfied or very satisfied with the quality of care
- Whilst almost two out of three believe more financial support would best strengthen the capacity of the sector to deliver better ways of supporting children in early years, more than half believe better career paths for workers would do so
- A higher proportion of service providers (37%) believe children with special needs are well catered for, compared to parents (25%) and childcare workers (26%)
- When presented with a comprehensive list of options, almost one in two said a crèche (community based, or private) was their preferred setting for childcare
- Whilst quality of care is of great importance to four out of five parents, location is more important as a consideration, than cost (38% v 31%)
- A high proportion of providers and staff call for better recognition of the professional standards in the sector, both from a financial and a career path perspective.
- Whilst pay levels, and recognition of qualifications attracts almost unanimous support from service providers and workers alike (97% and 96%), when asked about measures which would best promote the development of the sector – 65% of workers believed ‘provision of profession development programmes’ would do so, compared to 50% of service providers
- There is greater support for the establishment of an Early Education and Childcare Development Agency among service workers, than service providers (71% v 59%)
- And in terms of how such an authority could help them – 49% of childcare workers felt that creating professional development opportunities would do so, compared to 27% of service providers
Speaking on the findings, Mr Bruton said, “Parents value the standards of care and wellbeing of children beyond all else. Parents would not opt for care in the home or in their workplace.
“There is considerable satisfaction with the existing mix of providers, but more community services rather than State-run options are sought, and the lack of choice is the major concern rather than lack of flexibility of offering.
“In the post-Covid recovery, remote and flexible working will become a mainstay and more prevalent issue in our lives. More community services can allow more flexibility to parents. In turn, this allows for stronger communities – nationwide.
“The top ask of the State is more financial support and greater recognition of professional qualifications. Among childcare staff, there is huge dissatisfaction with pay, but also dissatisfaction with support for children with special needs, and opportunity to plan their work.
“There is huge support among staff and providers for the scope of a Child Development Agency to develop the professionalism of the sector.”
Mr Bruton said Fine Gael is listening and consulting with those who provide the service and know the sector best, as well as those who depend on the service in their daily lives.
The Fine Gael Policy Lab ‘Care of the Child’ survey will be discussed at a webinar tomorrow, Monday, May 24th at 7.30pm and can be viewed on Fine Gael’s Facebook page at 7.30pm.
Maria Walsh, MEP will act as MC for the evening; also taking part in the webinar will be:
Cllr. Daniel Butler
Member of the Policy Lab Board; Fine Gael Councillor for Limerick City West, with particular experience in facilitation, through his work in youth, drug and community services.
Member of the Policy Lab Board; Deirdre is former Deputy Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and Campaign Manager for Together for Yes.
Nicki is a party member in Longford Westmeath, and was one of the volunteer facilitators for our Policy Kitchens; she is a mother of two young children, 8 and 3 years old, and is very interested in this topic; she works full time, and has an active interest in health and social policy.