The lack of creche places around the country is fast becoming a barrier for parents returning to work, a Fine Gael Senator has said.
Seanad spokesperson on Children and Equality, Mary Seery-Kearney, has called for the provision of additional childcare places and supports for parents as a matter of urgency, saying equality in accessing the workplace is dependent on adequacy of childcare places.
Senator Seery-Kearney said: “Parents are being denied the opportunity to return to work by the absence of choice in available childcare.
“Places in creches are at a premium and since the pandemic, places for babies are even harder to secure.
“Some solutions are to increase supply by the provision of capital funding for childcare infrastructure, to use existing school buildings and to remove the planning exemption obliging developers to provide a facility for 20 childcare places for every 75 dwellings built.
“A capital funding round for childcare facilities with planning permission will be announced in the coming weeks, as allocated in Budget 2023.
“Community-based services in my own home constituency of Dublin South Central have obtained planning permission to extend their facilities and provide those much-needed spaces, but they are relying on an injection of capital funds from Government.
“The Fine Gael Policy Lab published the ‘Care of the Child’ policy last year having engaged with parents, childcare providers and professionals working in childcare throughout the country. One of the calls, supported by me and our parliamentary party, was for school buildings to be used when the school is not sitting, as a childcare facility.
“School buildings and facilities are ideal for a diversity of afterschool activities and for breakfast clubs. It is my hope that this will be considered for inclusion in the capital funding announcement.”
Senator Seer-Kearney continued: “Equality in accessing the workplace is dependent on there being an adequacy of childcare places across the country for parents wishing to avail of childcare.
“As we all know, women are far more likely to be impacted by lack of childcare supports – 45% of women in Ireland have some form of caring responsibilities compared to around 29% of men.
“Recent data shows that despite women being better educated than their male peers, employment rates can drop 5% for women when you compare those with and without children, and the most obvious barrier to this is the issue of childcare.
“Capital funding will address the issue in the medium to long term, but won’t offer any relief for parents in the short term.
“Since January, parents using creches can save thousands of euros per year with a substantial reduction in childcare fees – but this does nothing for parents forced to use alternatives due to a lack of creche places.
“This inequality must be addressed – all parents in the workplace should receive the same funding whatever childcare model they choose – or are forced to choose.
“In the same way we recognise child benefit is applicable to all children, we need to ensure childcare policy and supports consider all parents and forms of childcare, not just those fortunate enough to have found a place in the creche system.
“Taken in the round, all of these measures will keep women in the workplace, an investment that will also benefit the State from a tax perspective,” Senator Seery-Kearney concluded.