Sunday 20 October 2019

Ireland’s unmet need for childcare and home care ‘among worst in Europe’

Out of 11 European countries examined in a new ESRI study, Ireland has the fourth-highest level of unmet need for childcare.

Research suggests Ireland’s level of unmet childcare need is among the highest in Europe (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Research suggests Ireland’s level of unmet childcare need is among the highest in Europe (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

By Cate McCurry, PA

Ireland’s level of unmet need for childcare and home care is among the highest in Europe, a study shows.

Out of 11 European countries examined in a new ESRI study, Ireland has the fourth-highest level of unmet need for childcare and the second-highest for home care.

The research found that the highest level of unmet need for childcare was in Spain, the UK, Greece and Ireland.

In Ireland, cost was more likely to be an obstacle to childcare access than in some other countries.

Compared to countries with more generous welfare states, cost is a barrier to accessing childcare in Ireland and this has an impact on mothers’ employment Bertrand Maitre, report author

Availability of home care services was more likely to be a problem in Ireland than in some other European countries.

The ESRI study, commissioned by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, examined access to childcare for families with children up to age 12 and access to home care for households with a member who needs help because of long-term physical or mental ill-health, infirmity or because of old age.

It found that access to care services was greater in the more generous welfare states, such as Scandinavian countries while unmet childcare need is more common in countries with less generous welfare states, particularly for vulnerable families.

Around 8% of lone-parent families in Denmark report an unmet need for such care compared to 25% of lone-parent families in Ireland.

In Ireland, 78% of families with an unmet need for childcare reported that cost was the biggest obstacle while the most commonly reported reason for unmet need for home care is a lack of such services.

Bertrand Maitre, an author of the report, said: “Compared to countries with more generous welfare states, cost is a barrier to accessing childcare in Ireland and this has an impact on mothers’ employment.

“Access to home care services needs to be improved, especially for working-age families with a member who needs help because of illness or disability.

“The provision of these services constitutes a vital component of social policies to enhance quality of life, support employment and tackle poverty and social exclusion.”

Regina Doherty, Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, said: “Caring for others, either formally or informally, is a vital role in every society, particularly the care provided to our children, older people and people who live with a disability or a long-term health problem.

“This report is an important contribution to policymaking in this area and will inform the actions we take to address unmet formal childcare and home care needs in order to deliver positive outcomes for families and individuals throughout their working lives and on into retirement.”

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