Sunday 11 December 2016

Labour seeks to steal a march on FG with childcare policy

Niall O'Connor and Daniel McConnell

Published 07/10/2015 | 02:30

'The decision to launch a childcare policy just days before the Budget will be seen as Labour's attempt to steal a march on Fine Gael and Children's Minister James Reilly' (pictured)
'The decision to launch a childcare policy just days before the Budget will be seen as Labour's attempt to steal a march on Fine Gael and Children's Minister James Reilly' (pictured)

The Labour Party will today pledge to bridge the €5,000 a year gap between the cost of childcare for rural and urban families.

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The policy, entitled 'Let's Talk About Childcare', is part of a major pre-election push to woo the support of young struggling parents, particularly those living in the Dublin area.

A survey by this newspaper earlier this year showed that it costs up to €1,150 a month for a creche place for a baby.

The plan, which will be launched today by Tánaiste Joan Burton, warns that women are dropping out of the workforce once their youngest turns four.

And the "child-centric" policy also calls for the introduction of a second pre-school year - but it is understood such a measure will not be included in next week's Budget due to cost.

The decision to launch a childcare policy just days before the Budget will be seen as Labour's attempt to steal a march on Fine Gael and Children's Minister James Reilly.

Childcare has long been signalled as one of the three big ticket items in Budget 2016, along with the Universal Social Charge and the self-employed.

The document proposes increasing State investment in the child sector in order to bring about an "even standard of care around all providers".

In relation to this Budget, the plan recommends an increase in child benefit and the introduction of two weeks paternity leave, both of which have been signalled by Ms Burton recently.

The document warns that 74pc of stay-at-home parents cite the cost of childcare as being the major factor behind them giving up work.

It also pledges to make the childcare sector "more standardised, professional and educational" but will warn against creating a perception that childcare facilities are a "babysitting service".

"It is far too often labelled as such and that needs to be change," said a source.

The document was produced by Labour TDs Arthur Spring, Michael McCarthy, Ciara Conway and Joanna Tuffy. It was produced following a series of public meetings and online questionnaires.

"It is a core principle of the Labour Party to have more women in the workforce and to tackle the factors when both mothers and fathers are leaving their jobs when they have children," said a party source.

Meanwhile, political wrangling between both Fine Gael and Labour over childcare will continue this week as the Budget negotiations enter their most critical phase.

Fine Gael sources last night insisted that the strategy laid out by Dr Reilly earlier this year remains the preferred option. It is expected that specific measures surrounding pre-school care, after-school care and parental leave will be brought in incrementally over the life span of the next Government.

Irish Independent

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