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Outgoing Minister for Children among those to express concern over proposal to abolish cabinet post

"Any move to eradicate the position would bring Ireland back to an era when children were seen and not heard"

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Minister for Children Katherine Zappone. Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland/PA

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone. Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland/PA

PA

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone. Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland/PA

OUTGOING Children's Minister Katherine Zappone has said any move to abolish the cabinet-level posting would be a retrograde step.

Speaking to RTÉ's News at One, Ms Zappone, who lost her Dáil seat in February, said: "Any move to eradicate the position would bring Ireland back to an era when children were seen and not heard."

Ms Zappone's comment came after an organisation representing childminders has said it is "deeply concerned" at proposals to abolish a Cabinet-level Minister for Children.

The proposal is on the table in government formation talks between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party.

Fianna Fáil wants a new Cabinet-level Minister for Higher Education.

To free up a position it has been proposed that the Minister for Education become the Minister for Education, Children and Youth Affairs, taking on responsibility for both the Departments of Education and Children and Youth Affairs.

Childminding Ireland has today written to the party leaders, Micheál Martin, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Eamon Ryan to express its "strenuous objections" to the loss of a dedicated Cabinet post for the Department of Children.

A statement said: "Children and young adults will define our society, and their choices and voices must be respected and reflected in the new Programme for Government as it is negotiated.

"Childminding Ireland is deeply concerned by reports of a proposal to abolish the Minister for Children as a standalone Cabinet-level position".

The statement said: "Childminding will not “fit” into a Department of Education.

"Childminding is a model of care, not education.

"Whilst children are constantly learning in childminding settings, developing life skills and enjoying protected childhoods, formal curriculum have no place in such a child-led environment," the statement added.

It said there are estimated 88,000 children being minded in childminding settings and "We asked the Party Leaders to respect children and parents choices and voices by supporting and protecting childminding."

The Children's Rights Alliance said on Wednesday that Children and Education are the two biggest policy areas in Government and each deserve a full minister at cabinet.

"Any incoming Minister for Education will need to work at 120pc to address the challenges for the education system following Covid19. However, Children and Youth Affairs faces its own challenges including a demand surge in Tusla’ child protection services, rising child poverty, massive funding for childcare reform, funding for youth services, youth justice reform, adoption and fostering. This is a massive list. One Minister only has so much political capital that one area is bound to suffer," CRA chief executive Tanya Ward said.

She said the move also raised concerns about the ability of the new Government to respond to the issues facing children and families that have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis.

"We are walking towards another recession and carrying with us rising child poverty rates, a volatile housing crisis, increased demands on our health and mental health service, a spike in domestic violence and child protection calls for help and a rocky return to education for many students,” Ms Ward said.

“Young people need and deserve to have their voice represented at the highest levels of Government as we try navigate our way through this. Over 65 of our members have urged the negotiating parties to retain the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs."

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