Tuesday 25 October 2016

Poorer children more likely to be minded by a grandparent

Minister defends childcare plan as new report shows class divide

Laura Larkin

Published 13/10/2016 | 02:30

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone. Picture Credit:Frank McGrath
Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone. Picture Credit:Frank McGrath

Poorer families are more likely to rely on grandparents to provide childcare, a new report has found - a day after the Government unveiled a suite of measures which only apply to families using registered providers.

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Children's Minister Katherine Zappone has defended the fact that the supports are only targeted at those using creches or childminders which are registered with Tusla.

Teresa Heeney: CEO of Early Childhood Ireland. Photography: Conor Healy Photography
Teresa Heeney: CEO of Early Childhood Ireland. Photography: Conor Healy Photography

Now the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has found that less well-off families are unlikely to use creches.

A spokesman for Ms Zappone claimed that the findings of the report from the ESRI "prove the minister's point".

"For many people on low incomes, childcare is not an option," he said. "The findings do support the policy."

Ms Zappone has said that the scheme is the first step in reforming childcare in Ireland.

Yesterday, she said the funding would allow people to move away from relying on relatives for childcare.

The ESRI report, 'Cherishing All of the Children Equally?' noted: "State investment in early care and education for children aged three and under...has been very, very low. The private sector dominates the market and costs to most parents are very expensive."

Similar to earlier research, the report showed again that relatives (usually grandparents) were the most common form of childcare in Ireland, while childminders were the second most common, followed by centre-based care, such as creches.

Read more: David Quinn: This Budget discriminates against parents who do not want children in day care

Children from advantaged backgrounds were more likely to be cared for by childminders or creches.

"Class differences in access to care and education are marked in the early years in Ireland, partly linked to the relatively high cost of childcare for parents," the report adds.

The supports introduced by Ms Zappone include a universal payment of up to €80 per month toward childcare.

A subsidy scheme is also due to come into effect, which will see low-income earners benefit from subsidised payments of up to €5.38 per hour, based on their income and the age of the child.

Further detail on how the subsidies will slide down the scale, based on income thresholds has not yet been published.

The measures have been met with mixed reactions.

The National Women's Council of Ireland this week welcomed the funding allocation, which they said would help get women back to work.

Meanwhile, the National Childminding Association has warned that the new measures could force this type of provider out of the market.

Childminders can register with Tusla, which will make their clients eligible to apply for the supports. However, at the moment less than 1pc are registered.

"It will be devastating for these children and their families, if this one-to-one childcare environment is forced out of the sector. Parental choice must be respected," the group said.

"Our members are insured, garda-vetted and the majority have up-to-date paediatric first aid training. They provide continuity of care, flexibility and an environment where children can be minded in their own community."

Early Childhood Ireland, which represents creches and other early care providers, was briefed on the measures yesterday. CEO Teresa Heeney said its members were keen to take part in the consultation process for how these measures would work, but said much more detail was needed. She also warned that the sector needed more investment to maintain staffing and quality levels.

"We know the greatest issue is the ability to recruit and retain staff, so we are flying a warning flag now about what we will need to deliver in an expanding sector," she said.

Irish Independent

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