Thursday 17 October 2019

Most creches snub 'critical' survey on costs of childcare

Only 852 of the country's 4,504 care providers responded

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: Frank McGrath
Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: Frank McGrath
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

A majority of creche providers snubbed a study intended to inform the Government about the scale of fees and costs associated with childcare in Ireland.

The survey was commissioned by the Minister for Children Katherine Zappone more than two years ago but has still not been published, despite growing concern from parents and employers' groups about rising childcare fees and lack of spaces.

Only one in five childcare providers shared their fees and costs with the surveyors.

Of the 4,504 contacted, only 852 responded, the Department of Children has confirmed.

The study by the consultancy firm, Crowe, was described by the Minister as a "critical" part of the Government's efforts to reform childcare in Ireland, as researchers examine the factors driving Ireland's high childcare costs.

The low engagement from the industry has been described as disappointing.

Fees have increased by €11 a week over two years, according to official figures, with parents now in Ireland paying an average of €177 per child or €708 a month.

Ireland is consistently ranked as one of the most expensive countries in Europe for childcare.

The industry body, Early Childhood Ireland, which represents more than 3,000 members, said the response was "disappointing" but may be explained by the fact that it coincided with another yearly study conducted by Pobal.

Parents in Ireland spend 28pc of the average wage on childcare compared to the EU average of 12pc, according to the latest report by the National Competitiveness Council.

But Irish parents are still better off than parents in Britain, where the corresponding figure was 36pc.

The Minister introduced subsidies to make childcare more affordable.

However, one couple told the Sunday Independent that even with the subsidy, fees for their two children attending a north Dublin creche increased this year by €120 to €1,450 a month.

The cost of full-time childcare increased by €4 a week last year and by €7 in 2017, according to the annual price survey published last year by Pobal.

In Cork city, fees rose more than €15, while childcare prices were highest in Dun Laoghaire in south Dublin where parents can expect to pay €308 for a child per week. The number of childcare places available fell by 31pc last year.

Early Childhood Ireland said it encouraged its members to take part in the Crowe survey, promoting the study internally and at an event: "It should also be borne in mind that community and private childcare providers have stringent regulatory requirements which require regular, complex reporting to State bodies.

"It may be that coming as it did, at the same time as the Profile (Pobal) survey, that our members simply couldn't find the time to complete an additional survey."

Reports emerged last week of a severe shortage of creche places for babies and toddlers because of the success of the free pre-school programme for three to five-year-olds.

Sunday Independent

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