Monday 5 December 2016

Subsidy threshold 'grossly unfair', claims FF

Kevin Doyle Group Political Editor

Published 15/10/2016 | 02:30

Fianna Fáil spokesperson Anne Rabbitte
Fianna Fáil spokesperson Anne Rabbitte

A couple who each earn €29,000 a year will be eligible for the same childcare subsidy as a couple earning €250,000, Fianna Fáil has complained.

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The party is arguing that Children's Minister Katherine Zappone's plan is unbalanced and "grossly unfair". Its spokesperson Anne Rabbitte said the thresholds were "bizarre".

"The Government plan is deeply unequitable - households earning below €47,500 net income receive a higher 'targeted' subsidy, while families earning above this threshold will receive a much lower 'universal' subsidy, regardless of their income.

"This is not income progressive and is grossly unfair for families earning just above the €47,500 income threshold, who are ineligible for the so-called 'targeted childcare subsidy'," she said.

Ms Rabbitte also claimed that the scheme "could in fact drive up childcare costs as there is nothing contained in it to prevent crèches from hiking up their fees.

"At the moment, there are around 80,000 children under the age of five who are cared for by childminders, who are not eligible for payment under this subsidy," she said.

"This will create huge new demand for new childcare places, which will undoubtedly create upward price inflation for childcare places."

The Irish Independent reported yesterday that the legislation which will underpin the scheme will require childcare providers to publish their prices in an easy-to-access way for parents.

The Department of Children have also said that part of the reason for paying the subsidy directly to a childcare facility, rather than to the parents, is to prevent prices being hiked.

The minister has indicated that her plan is tapered in this fashion so that families on very low incomes will get most of the benefit from the money available. There are 220,000 children in Ireland who live in poverty or at risk of poverty.

However, the Irish Independent has learned that Ireland is at least 10 years away from reaching the OECD average for investment in childcare.

Currently the Government invest 0.5pc of public spending on childcare, compared to the OECD average of 0.8pc.

"In order for Ireland to reach the OECD average spend on childcare, it could take up to a decade," said a source familiar with the area. "It is estimated that another half a billion euro each year would have to be pumped into the industry to reach other peer countries' levels."

Ms Zappone got a 35pc increase in funding for next year, rising from €345m to €466m.

Of this, €19m is being invested in the Affordable Childcare Programme.

Irish Independent

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