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We will soon find out how serious the Government is about reforming childcare in this country

The government must act to make childcare more affordable, according to Social Democrats Children’s Spokesperson Jennifer Whitmore.

Deputy Whitmore was reacting to the launch of a new campaign, ‘A New Deal for Early Years’, from SIPTU and a coalition of 11 early years and civil society groups. The proposal calls on the State to subsidise wages so providers can reduce fees and improve the pay and conditions of their workers.

“This is a win-win for everyone. In essence, this new model will work a lot like the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme and primary and secondary school: the State pays staff wages, allowing for universal access to childcare, while a limit on fees is put in place.

“While this would be an opt-in system, it would encourage providers to join to help alleviate wage costs. It could also provide a much more sustainable option for providers, who have been struggling until now – especially during Covid.

“This model makes sense and is what’s already in place in a lot of other European countries. It rightly separates the issue of pay and professionalisation of employees and the issue of affordability for parents. Up until now, they have always been in conflict, making it very difficult to make beneficial changes along the way.

“I welcome SIPTU’s initiative in putting forward a well-costed and researched proposal which I believe the government must seriously consider. Childcare costs in Ireland are the most expensive in the EU and parents are crying out for affordable childcare options.

“Staff also need the recognition they deserve and better pay and conditions. Currently, there is a staff turnover rate of 40pc per year in the sector, which is primarily related to poor pay. This is not sustainable.

“The government’s Early Years’ Strategy has already signalled the possibility of the introduction of some of these initiatives, including a maximum fee threshold and pay professionalisation of the sector.

“I will be raising this with the Minister for Children to see what the government is going to do for parents and employees. We will soon find out how serious they really are about reforming childcare in this country as we approach the Budget 2022 process.”

8 July, 2021


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