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Should the Government Invest in Pre-School Children?

CHILDCARE: Is it time for the Government to start investing in our young children’s welfare? 

The early childhood care and education sector believes support has never been needed as badly to create the high quality childcare necessary for our pre-school children.

There has been frustration among the private early childhood education sector following the government’s allocation of €3m for community childcare services, parent and toddler groups and childminders. The private sector, which makes up 70 per cent of the sector in Ireland, say they, too, are in dire need of financial assistance, but have been left out of the funding allocation.

The early childhood education sector has voiced its concerns at the lack of funding for quality facilities and staff in the childcare facilities that we’re sending our children to, with many reporting difficulty in maintaining a sustainable service, including adequate conditions and pay to retain qualified staff.

The CEO of Early Childhood Ireland, Teresa Heeney, says she believes the €3m scheme is “unfair and short sighted”, ignoring private providers of early childhood care and education in Ireland. “Private providers face the very same cost challenge when it comes to repair work and they can’t be expected to fund this work when the money simply isn’t there.”

Irish parents are funding 100% of childcare costs

It has been estimated in a study by Indecon Consultants on behalf of Donegal Childcare Committee (DCCC) that the cost of full-time monthly childcare for Irish parents is between €730 and €1,100 per month per child. Apart from the free pre-school year, most parents are funding 100 per cent of their childcare costs.
my-family/childcare/should-the-government-invest-in-pre-school-childre While the governments of other countries are contributing significantly to subsidise early childhood education costs for parents, the Irish government’s contribution to early childhood education is at the very lowest of the scale.

While the governments of other countries are contributing significantly to subsidise early childhood education, the Irish government’s contribution is at the very lowest of the scale

Ms Heeney says that, as a society, we have not yet come to terms with the fact that it’s our responsibility to look after the care and education needs of our young children. She says that while investment in children of school age and above has been sufficient, investment in “The Peppa Pig Years” has not, with parents funding the entire cost of early childhood education.

“A high quality pre-school system is good for children and families, competitiveness and long-term sustainability of a society,” she says. For parents in search of more information on their child's preschool, it is now possible to access pre-school inspection reports online as the new Child and Family Agency has published several thousand reports online for parents to review.

The stressful issue of childcare for parents

With parents continuing to struggle financially, with high mortgages and the consistently high cost of living, the added pressure of childcare costs mean that some families are reaching crisis point. “We know that for parents, the cost of childcare is crippling,” says Ms Heeney. “It’s very difficult for parents who have very high mortgages and are trying to hold down two jobs. It’s a very stressful issue for parents.”

Irish parents spend 40% of wages on childcare

Ireland’s stance on childcare is in stark contrast to Scandinavian countries, who enjoy some of the best childcare in the world. Scandinavian parents, on average, spend only 8 per cent of their earnings on childcare, most of which is in full-time, public institutions. They pay on average 18 per cent of the total cost of childcare, with the government covering the rest. Meanwhile, Irish parents with pre-school age children are spending, on average, 40 per cent of their wages on childcare.

Such is the emphasis on children and childcare in Scandinavia, a group of Danish nurseries have come up with a novel way to help the country's low birth rate – by offering parents an evening of free childcare so they can go home and make more babies!


Irish parents with pre-school age children are spending, on average, 40 per cent of their wages on childcare

Is financial support available?

Financial support is offered to disadvantaged parents, providing support for parents in low paid employment and training or education in the form of the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) programme. This offers reduced childcare costs at community or public childcare facilities. More information regarding eligibility for the CCS can be found on the Department of Children and Youth Affairs website.

Is the cost of childcare having a detrimental effect on your family? How do you manage to juggle childcare costs?

Do you believe that a heavily subsidised public childcare system should be available to all? We would love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment below.

About the Author

Jo Lavelle is a freelance editor and journalist with 12 years experience in the magazine, newspaper and radio industry. During her magazine career, she was style and beauty editor, before going to be editor of a magazine group. She was also a news writer and reporter for both newspapers and radio, in addition to feature writing for the press. She’s mum to 18 month old Elise, and has another on the way!

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