Wednesday 21 November 2018

Childcare now tops €9,000 a year as State subsidy grows

Stock photo
Stock photo
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

The cost of childcare in Ireland rose 2pc in the past year - averaging at €9,256 per year - analysts have found.

A national survey of childcare providers due to be published next month is expected to show the average for families is just less than €178 per week.

The review carried, out by Pobal, captured around 90pc of providers of all types of childcare to determine the rise. It found an average of €177.92 per week for full time and €101.82 for part-time care.

The rate of increase comes as Children's Minister Katherine Zappone unveiled an expansion of the Affordable Childcare Scheme to families earning up to €60,000 after tax.

The subsidy delivers weekly payments of €50 to €145 on a sliding scale, decreasing as income rises.

Work is under way on a new IT system needed to roll out the full scheme which will include more families after Budget 2019 increased the income threshold.

A source close to the minister said the data, due to be published next month, "proves measures taken as part of the countdown to the affordable childcare scheme is having an impact and delivering results for families".

As well as expanding the scheme, additional funding has been provided to boost the number of childminders registered with Tusla - there are currently only 120. If a childminder is not registered, parents cannot avail of any State subsidy towards the cost.

The number registered was described as "tiny" by one official and it is hoped there will be significant uptake before the Affordable Childcare Scheme is rolled out.

Another €500,000 will also be deployed to begin regulating after-school childcare for older children.

Asked if the introduction of regulation into the sector would lead to an increase in costs, Ms Zappone said that "ultimately we don't know".

"If we review what's been going on in terms of the past number of years, fees have increased but in a modest way over a number of years - 2pc last year," she said.

Investment

"In my ongoing meetings and discussions with the sector itself they are aware of the fact there are ways in which the additional investment is there to try to support the pay for the sector while ensuring affordability."

"I think they understand that and we have evidence to demonstrate that it has been modest and we hope and expect that will continue."

However, Fianna Fáil spokesperson children Anne Rabbitte said the income thresholds will still leave a lot of ordinary families without State support to tackle high childcare bills.

"The reality is that a household with two working parents - a nurse and a garda - will still be ineligible for the targeted level of subsidy," she said.

Irish Independent

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