Thursday 17 January 2019

Plan for cutting childcare costs passed over to new 'expert group'

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Plans for a radical overhaul of childcare funding are to be handed to a new expert group and will take 10 years to implement.

The move will be signalled by Children's Minister Katherine Zappone today in a speech in which she will promise to "radically reform the funding model for early childhood care and education".

She will say "significantly more investment" in childcare facilities will be needed in future budgets in order to "reduce the out-of-pocket cost" on parents.

But it appears there won't be any quick fixes as the panel will not be formally appointed until autumn. And its ultimate aim will be to devise a strategy for the next 10 years.

A new 'Parenting and Family Policy Unit' will also be established in the Department of Children.

Ms Zappone will make the announcement at an Open Policy Debate on Early Years Strategy in the Aviva Stadium.

"A new national model of parenting supports, ranging from universal to targeted, will be agreed - making parenting supports and high quality programmes more accessible to all families for the first time," she will say.

The programmes will range from providing information on the importance of play in a child's development, to assistance with developing positive relationships and behaviours, to supporting positive health.

The plan is expected to propose that Ireland follows the example set by other countries which have transformed childhood care and educational facilities into family support hubs.

Over the past three years, there has been an 80pc increase in investment for early childhood care - but Ms Zappone will acknowledge this "came from a very low base and we continue to trail international norms".

Her department hopes to devise a voluntary contract for delivery of high-quality early childhood care. In return for meeting agreed quality criteria under this contract, providers will receive additional funding.

It will be the role of the expert panel to propose these quality criteria.

Irish Independent

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