Saturday 16 December 2017

Childcare 'a key issue in Budget 2016'

Brendan Howlin
Brendan Howlin
Adam Cullen

Adam Cullen

Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin has said childcare will be one of the key topics that will need attention in October's budget.

Speaking at the National Economic Dialogue in Dublin Castle yesterday, Mr Howlin said the issue was among a "number of pressure points" that needed to be addressed following discussions at the forum.

While childcare industry experts welcomed the Wexford TD's comments, some have said delivery is often far detached from promises.

Early Childhood Ireland CEO Teresa Heeney has said action is needed in the crisis-hit sector.

"All we have had to date is political kite flying," said Ms Heeney. "We have already heard proposals that the Government is considering to allow parents six months parental leave. This is simply kite flying in the run-up to a general election.

"They are doing this despite the fact that the accepted time in most countries is one year off. There is scientific evidence that shows this extra time with a preliminary caregiver is beneficial in a child's development," she added.

"What we need is to see an increase in spending in the sector from 0.2pc of GDP to the EU average of 0.7pc. If this isn't done, we will see childcare in Ireland spiral into an even deeper crisis."

Despite hinting that these areas will see future investment, both Mr Howlin and Minister for Finance Michael Noonan ruled out a giveaway budget.

He acknowledged that the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council had recommended a maximum of €700m for tax cuts and spending hikes, compared to the €1.5bn projected by the Government.

But the Labour TD remained confident the Government would fully meet its legal requirements within the €1.5bn spending limit.

Meanwhile, Mr Noonan said there was scope to take on tax reduction and spending measures.

However, he stressed the budget no longer depends on monies available, but rather the amount of money the Government was allowed to spend under new European fiscal rules.

Early Childhood Ireland has said there needs to be an injection of an additional €510m into the early childhood sector over the next six years.

Irish Independent

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