Reducing the Cost of Childcare for Families in the Midlands
I was delighted to appear on RTÉ’s Prime Time last Tuesday to discuss the Government’s plans to reduce childcare costs and improve pay rates for those working in the sector.
Firstly, it’s important to say that the Government recognises that many parents find childcare far too expensive. The average monthly cost of childcare is €766 in Offaly and €693 in Laois. The other issue is that the payment rates to childcare workers are insufficient and this presents difficulties for attracting and retaining staff in the sector.
My Green Party colleague, Minister Roderic O’Gorman TD, is very committed to dealing with both of those issues through a comprehensive two-step approach that will introduce new minimum payment rates for childcare workers and increase financial supports for parents through the National Childcare Scheme (NCS). This is in addition to the launch of the Core Funding, a new €221 million funding stream for Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare providers, and the announcement of a freeze on increases in childcare fees which is currently in effect.
Accessing affordable childcare is not a new issue. I’m a parent of four children, my eldest is turning 19, and I remember I had to make that decision when my child was young. When I had my second child, I opted out of my work. I took ten years out of paid work to rear and look after my children. That was an option to me. I appreciate that the increasing cost-of-living has led to more challenges in the childcare sector, but I am confident that Minister O’Gorman’s work will deliver for parents, childcare providers and young children. We value the hard work and dedication of our crèches and pre-schools, and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth is taking a partnership approach where the State is allocating funding to support these services and enable greater affordability and accessibility for parents.
For the first time, the Government has recognised childcare as a public good. I think that is an important step in the process to improving childcare services in Ireland.