Pressure on Zappone over childcare for average earners
Children's Minister Katherine Zappone is coming under increasing pressure to ensure her childcare plans for the Budget cover middle-income earners.
As she thrashes out the threshold at which parents become eligible for subsidised childcare with Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe, Fianna Fáil has said any measures brought in should cover a couple earning a combined €60,000.
The plan being proposed by Ms Zappone will see subsidies paid directly to creches.
A sum of €47,000 has been reported as a possible combined income threshold for parents, though the Department of Children has stressed it's just one model being looked at. While Ms Zappone is understood to be seeking to maximise the threshold she can secure, ultimately it will depend on the sum allocated by Mr Donohoe's department.
Fianna Fáil children spokeswoman Anne Rabbitte said her party's preferred option for supporting childcare is a tax credit for parents - which she would still like the Government to consider. However, she said that a €47,000 income threshold for a subsidy "isn't enough".
"If you're a nurse and a guard . . . you're still deemed outside of it so is that really supporting middle Ireland? No, is the answer to me."
She added: "I think we certainly should be looking at €60,000 as a starting base so as we could get more people into the net."
Ms Zappone said her plan is to begin supporting low-income families who require higher subsidies but that her "ambition" is that every family will benefit from more childcare support "to some degree". She said the previously announced expansion of the free-pre-school scheme will see families save €1,500 more per year.
She was asked on Newstalk if middle income workers can look forward to relief on childcare costs in the Budget.
Ms Zappone said: "I am in negotiations with Minister Donohoe and would be hoping that . . . there will be some for them as well."
Mr Donohoe said his Department is "engaging very substantially" with Ms Zappone on the matter but declined to offer details. He said he had a "productive" meeting to discuss the Budget with Fianna Fáil's Dara Calleary on Wednesday.