Working parents need more immediate supports and the Government needs to try and address the capacity issues for pre-schoolers.
That is according to mum-of-two Emma Quinlan who said trying to figure out a satisfactory arrangement for her daughter Isla (3) and son Arlo (20 months) is giving her “serious anxiety”.
She was speaking in the wake of Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman saying that a new register for childminders will not go online for at least another year, leaving thousands of parents unable to access National Childcare Scheme (NCS) subsidies.
“I just think there’s too much red tape involved,” she said.
She works in sales for a tech company while her husband works in medicine, meaning they have moved around the country several times already. Her family are based in Kilkenny, where their monthly bill for the two children is just under €1,000, but when they were living in Dublin, it was around €2,500 monthly.
They may need to move again to Wexford and when Ms Quinlan made tentative inquiries with a number of childcare facilities, she came up against a brick wall.
There was no availability in any of the creches or Montessoris and she could not source a single childminder who was even registered with Childminding Ireland, let alone Tusla.
“There was not one place available in any of the creches I rang. A lot of them are still listed as creches but are actually Montessori as they are not taking in under-threes anymore.
"Two places that I rang don’t partake in any government schemes at all because they said the cost of the administration is just not worth it.”
She would support giving a tax relief instead to working parents but feels the entire system needs to be overhauled given the chronic lack of availability for early years.
“It should be more like the Scandinavian system, where it’s nationalised. Even in the UK, they get 30 hours free a week. That country is imploding and they’re still managing to do that,” she said.
“Capacity is a real issue, but if the Government really believes in promoting gender equality and removing the gender pay gap, they should treat childminders better, as most of them are female.
"They need to invest more in early childhood development. I feel that anyone who works with children deserves a knighthood, it’s such a hard job. But it’s still one of the most undervalued professions.”
This week Mr O’Gorman unveiled more details of the Childminding Action Plan. He wants to see more parents being able to access subsidies under the NCS in a package worth €121m and says this new register will be up and running by late next year or early 2024.
As it stands, only around 80 childminders are registered with Tusla, which facilitates access to the scheme.
However, there are around 15,000 childminders working in Ireland, caring for about 88,000 children and none of these families have current access to the Government subsidies.
Childminding Ireland said in a statement the “vast majority of parents using childminding services cannot avail of the NCS”.
“Childminders who mind small numbers of children cannot register with Tusla and consequently cannot offer NCS to parents using their services due to current legislative exemptions,” said a spokesperson.