Friday 19 July 2019

Hopes for increased childcare support for gardaí, nurses and teachers

  • Increased childcare support for workers such as gardaí, nurses and teachers on the table in Budget talks
  • Children's Minister Zappone exploring how targeted childcare subsidies can be expanded to include more squeezed workers
  • 'Too early' in negotiations to put a figure on any possible increase in that payment
Minister for Children Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone to lobby for childcare funding
Minister for Children Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone to lobby for childcare funding
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Increased childcare support for workers such as gardaí, nurses and teachers is on the table in talks on the upcoming Budget.

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone is exploring how targeted childcare subsidies can be expanded to include more squeezed workers in both the public and private sectors.

None of the targeted subsidy options is currently available to families with a net income of more than €47,500. It is understood Ms Zappone is keen to expand childcare subsidies to include more families.

Sources pointed out a lot of public sector workers like gardaí, nurses and teachers are on lower incomes at the start of their careers. Despite this, they don't necessarily qualify for the targeted subsidies.

One measure under consideration is raising the €47,500 threshold, though a source stressed that a new cap is not yet agreed and is all "subject to negotiation". Any change to the cap would benefit both public and private sector workers up to a certain income threshold.

At present, parents who benefit from the targeted childcare subsidies include those on a low income, with medical cards, or in receipt of various social protection payments.

These childcare subsidies range from €50 to €145 a week depending on their circumstances. The families of more than 45,000 children have availed of these targeted subsidies since their introduction in September last year.

When the supports were first announced in 2016, Ms Zappone said she hoped to be able to increase this threshold in future Budgets.

Sources stressed the details of any childcare measures in the Budget are still being thrashed out over the next fortnight.

Changes to the wider-ranging universal subsidy, which is worth €80 a month, are also under consideration with just over two weeks to Budget day.

However, a source said it's "too early" in the negotiations to put a figure on any possible increase in that payment.

Ms Zappone is due to have a Budget meeting with Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe in the coming week.

Talks are also ongoing between the Government and Fianna Fáil, which is putting pressure on the Government to double the current universal subsidy from €80 to €160 per month. The families of more than 38,000 children avail of the universal payment which covers children aged between six months and three years who are enrolled in Tusla-registered childcare.

A spokesperson for Mr Donohoe declined to comment on childcare measures under consideration in the Budget.

Any childcare measures will be subject to the constraints of the limited sums available.

The Government is also working on a new Affordable Childcare Scheme that's due to be introduced next year.

Speaking in the Dáil, Ms Zappone said the interim measures - including the targeted and universal subsidies - will remain until the new scheme goes live.

"We are turning Ireland's childcare system from one of the most expensive in the world into one of the best," she said.

This is a "massive challenge" but she argued that the Government is "well on the way to delivering the childcare supports Irish families need and deserve".

Irish Independent

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