Saturday 25 November 2017

Labour denies 'childcare bailout' for urban areas

Ciara Conway
Ciara Conway

Niall O'Connor and Daniel McConnell

Tánaiste Joan Burton has said rural families have a greater access to a "community-based childcare network" that is better value than the facilities available in urban areas such as Dublin.

Ms Burton said families in Dublin are paying extortionate childcare costs and that the Labour party wants to provide greater support to urban-based parents.

But the Labour Party rejected suggestions that her party's plan to provide "even" childcare costs for all families will be seen as a bailout for urban dwellers.

"One of the reasons for the disparity between the cost of childcare in urban areas versus more rural areas, and certainly outside city areas is that we have in Ireland a fairly extensive community based childcare network based in community centres. That's very, very strong, particular outside of Dublin areas," Ms Burton said.

She added that while there is a certain amount of such community centre-based childcare in urban areas, there needs to be more.

"It tends to be much better value, and the costs are much lower than the costs in the kind of professional childcare, private sector, childcare facilities which there tend to be more of in large urban areas and cities. So what we would like to see is that there would be a reflection in terms of support," she added.

Ms Burton has said her party wants to increase public investment in creche facilities so as to improve wages for workers, as well as easing the cost burden on parents.

She was speaking in Dublin at the launch of the party's childcare plan, entitled 'Let's Talk about Childcare'.

The plan was produced by a working group made up of TDs Arthur Spring, Michael McCarthy, Ciara Conway and Joanna Tuffy.

Among the six proposals in the plan are the introduction of paid paternity and paternal leave, an extension of the free pre-school year and an increase in child benefit. Making childcare more affordable for parents and professionalising the childcare workforce is also being proposed by the junior coalition partner.

Ms Burton said increasing child benefit by €5 per child is the only issue agreed with Fine Gael ahead of the Budget.

She denied that the party has trying to steal a march on Fine Gael by launching the policy so close to the Budget.

However, Fine Gael sources said it is clear from their perspective that Ms Burton and her party are engaging in "electioneering".

In relation to paid paternity leave, Labour said such a move would finally recognise the role fathers play in raising their children.

"The introduction of paid paternity leave would herald the beginning of this cultural change which recognises the role of both parents in rearing a child," the document adds.

Parental leave also forms a major plank of the Labour policy.

The party said the policy would be on a "use it or lose it basis" and would come into operation once the 26 weeks of maternity leave expires.

Irish Independent

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