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Friday 18 October 2019

High childcare fees keeping mums out of work and leaving families in poverty

Childcare and home care crisis in Ireland

More than three-quarters of Irish families said the high fees charged by facilities was the biggest obstacle when it came to properly accessing childcare. Stock picture
More than three-quarters of Irish families said the high fees charged by facilities was the biggest obstacle when it came to properly accessing childcare. Stock picture
Melanie Finn

Melanie Finn

Ireland is failing to meet the needs of families when it comes to using childcare facilities, as well as those caring for vulnerable people in the home.

Today's new report by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) into the social issue has found that Ireland is ranked the fourth highest when it comes to unmet needs for childcare and is the second highest when it comes to not meeting the needs of those requiring home care.

With the exception of Scandinavia, the exorbitant cost of childcare was the most common reason given by those surveyed in the 11 European countries.

Availability of places was also cited as part of the study.

Some 78pc of Irish families said that the high fees charged by facilities was the biggest obstacle when it came to properly accessing childcare services. In Finland, only 20pc of respondents said that cost was the reason for not using a facility.

When it comes to defining an 'unmet need', they surveyed families with children under 12 who said that the hours offered by a formal childcare facility did not suit their needs.

Other respondents said they wanted to use a crèche but couldn't due to other reasons like cost or availability.

The knock-on effect of this was that mothers in these families were half as likely to be employed and therefore twice as likely to experience material poverty.

Of those surveyed, some 25pc of lone-parent families in Ireland cited unmet childcare needs, compared with just 8pc of families in a similar set-up in Finland.

When it comes to accessing home-care facilities, Ireland scored even worse - second only to Greece - and availability was cited as a problem.

Just 24pc of Irish families received assistance for someone in the household who needed help, compared with Denmark where more than double that (54pc) received support in the home.

Working-age households are more than twice as likely as those over 65 to have an unmet need for home help. People aged over 65 have greater access to services but this varied greatly across countries. In Denmark, 80pc of those needing it received home care but this fell to 42pc when it came to Irish respondents.

The 'Access to Childcare and Home Care Services Across Europe' report also found that, in general, access to care services was greater in the more generous welfare states such as Scandinavian countries.

However, there was no significant link between having unmet care needs and employment levels, meaning that most people were managing to balance caring for a family member with their job.

The report's author Bertrand Maítre said it clearly shows that cost is a barrier to accessing childcare in Ireland and this has a direct impact on mothers' employment, while access to home-care services needs to be improved.

Irish Independent

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