It is vital that the issue of extremely high childcare costs faced by parents in Dublin is meaningfully addressed, and that childcare providers are supported to stay in business so that parents know places will be available for children when needed, a Fine Gael TD has said.
Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, Fine Gael Spokesperson for Equality, said: “The Department of Children have got to get this right to see a meaningful reduction of costs for parents and secure the availability of places. This is what childcare providers want, and what parents need, and it is all the more urgent during this cost-of-living crisis.
“I met with the Federation of Early Childhood Providers earlier this week outside Leinster House as they held their third protest in relation to ongoing difficulties within the childcare sector. I have also spoken to many parents in my constituency facing ongoing high costs or the actual withdrawal of an offer of a place, in some cases affecting long planned returns to work following maternity leave with only a few weeks’ notice. They highlight ongoing difficulties in communication. How can we possibly support women and families with this kind of uncertainty?
“It is unacceptable that parents feel grateful to even obtain a place only to then pay what is tantamount to a second mortgage in monthly costs. The Department needs to get serious and recognise the pressure this creates for families. This is also the Department with responsibility for equality, so let’s hope that in the run up to the Budget, the two wings of the department can work out the policy cohesion and funding delivery to make life easier for working people, especially working women coming back from maternity leave.
“The ECCE Scheme has helped a great many families in providing free childcare for two years. However, there is a cohort of childcare providers struggling with how the ECCE scheme is being operated, particularly in terms of the administrative burden being placed on individual facilities. These are facilities who are trying their very best to provide childcare spaces right across the country, and in Dún Laoghaire, where right now childcare fees are the highest in Ireland.
“It is important to hear what providers are saying. If they’re saying the current core funding scheme is too difficult, then the Department must listen. I’m already aware of at least two childcare facility closures in my area this past month. This has a real knock-on effect: parents unable to return to work; unnecessary change and upset for a young child; loss of jobs for providers; and crucially, a loss of childcare space, which is something we just cannot afford.
“Parents, in particular women I have spoken to, are struggling to get back to work, or to stay in employment due to the current disproportionately high costs and lack of available places. Childcare providers are struggling to stay open. This absolutely must be addressed in Budget 2023.” concluded Deputy Carroll MacNeill.