Thursday 8 December 2016

'Summer premium' on childcare hammering parents who work

Published 13/08/2016 | 02:30

Nine of the 12 crèches contacted charged a “summer premium” for full-time childcare (Stock picture)
Nine of the 12 crèches contacted charged a “summer premium” for full-time childcare (Stock picture)

Working parents are being hit hard with a "summer premium" for childcare.

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This can be as high as an extra €640 a month for parents who are both working and have two children in crèche.

The parents are forced into paying more because summer holidays mean school-going children are in crèches for longer each day during the long break.

Many children, where both parents work outside the home, end up in child-minding facilities for nine to 10 hours a day, rather than five hours a day during the school term.

Parents say they are being hammered and the National Women's Council said the Government is doing nothing about it.

And parents have to pay for childcare places during the summer even when they are away on holidays, as the place has been booked and has to be paid for.

The "summer premium" cost affects working couples with primary school children.

But it also hits working couples with pre-school children, as the State's Early Children Care and Education scheme (ECCE) only applies during term time.

The ECCE covers the cost of three hours each day of childcare, but only during term time.

The Irish Independent carried out a survey of 12 crèches across Ireland from August 9 to 11 to inquire about their prices during term time and during the summer holidays.

Nine of the 12 crèches contacted charged a "summer premium" for full-time childcare. Giraffe, one of the largest childcare providers in the Dublin region, charges over €80 a week extra for children to attend full-time during the summer.

Read More: Analysis: School holidays should be fun - but extra cost puts a major dampener on them

Just Kids Crèche in Louth also charged an additional €75 per week for full-time childcare for school-going children.

Of the 12 that provided details, Little Harvard, Park Academy Childcare and Lifestyle Community Crèche in Louth kept their prices the same throughout the whole year.

Orla O'Connor of the National Women's Council said families in which both parents work find summer hugely expensive and difficult to manage.

To avoid children having to be in crèches and child-minding full-time for the summer, many parents were using a combination of summer camps, asking grandparents to mind children and paying childminders. She said the Programme for Government suggested schools be used for child-minding outside of school hours, but this has not been implemented yet.

"There are two big issues - the cost, and out-of-school hours not being put in place. Nothing is being done by the Government about this.

"We get a lot of calls from women saying, 'My God, what are we meant to do?'

"Summer is an extremely difficult period for parents," Ms O'Connor said.

Laura Erskine, of MummyPages.ie, an online community of mothers, said working parents were being hammered during the summer.

"If you are working you have to use camps, but you have to find before-camp care and after-camp care, but it is expensive."

Read More: 'I have to pull back from work - juggling it all is hard'

The free pre-school places, under the ECCE scheme, do not operate in the summer, she said.

"The Government has dangled the carrot of subsidised childcare at source for working parents, similar to the way the ECCE model works. Yet, like many election promises, we have yet to see any action, leaving Ireland with the most expensive childcare bill in Europe."

The boss of Early Childhood Ireland, an organisation that represents 3,500 crèches, pre-school and after-school facilities, said parents were being hit hard in summer.

Teresa Heeney said parents of school-going children were typically asked to pay an additional €80 a week per child.

This works out at €640 a month for a family of two school-going children. The summer childcare premium is close to €1,000 for working couples with three children.

Ms Heeney said: "There is the absence of a strategy to address the need for comprehensive early education. There is a huge issue around affordability for parents."

She said parents of school-going children pay between €180 and €200 a week during term time, with higher prices in Dublin.

"It is very challenging for parents during the summer in terms of childcare and also because of the affordability issue," Ms Heeney said.

A spokeswoman for Children's Minister Katherine Zappone said work on the affordable childcare scheme is expected to be in place by autumn 2017.

"It is envisaged that this single scheme will provide a new simplified subsidy programme, available through both community/not-for-profit and private childcare providers, which will provide wrap-around childcare support for parents, including during after-school and school holiday times."

The spokeswoman said the programme will also provide a platform for future investment to make childcare more affordable. From next month, children will be eligible for a free year of pre-school at age three, and to remain in pre-school until primary school.

Irish Independent

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