Monday 26 February 2018

Varadkar told “childcare is not a luxury”

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar
Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

TRANSPORT Minister Leo Varadkar is under increasing pressure to row back on his statement that working parents might have to give up their jobs if childcare costs exceed their salary.

The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) described Mr Varadkar’s comment as “extremely anti-women and anti-children” and said it goes against Government policies to promote employment and gender equality.

“Childcare is not a luxury but a necessity,” said NWCI director Orla O’Connor.

“It is unacceptable that the Government would punish working families for making difficult financial decisions with regard to combining work and family life, including continuing their employment despite a loss of income due to the high costs of childcare.

“Families make all kinds of decisions and they are not all about short term maths but about the long term sustainability and well-being of the family,” she added.

Early Childhood Ireland, which represents 3,330 childcare professionals, said there should be a proper debate on how the childcare bill should be paid and that there was an onus on the state for more investment to support families and children.

It said Irish families spend a higher proportion of their income on childcare than any other nation except Switzerland and the UK.

“We have been calling on the Government to undertake a cost-benefit analysis on models of support for parents such as tax exemptions, tax credits, refundable credits, thus ensuring that work pays for parents who combine work and formal childcare in Ireland,” it said.

Dublin West TD Patrick Nulty said Mr Varadkar should immediately withdraw his “insensitive remarks”.

“Why Minister Varadkar seems to have targeted women in particular is shocking. We already have wage inequality between men and women because our society is not family friendly,” he added.

In response to the outrage the comments have made, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said today no woman will be forced to give up their job as part of a mortgage deal if their childcare costs exceed the wages.

Mr Kenny said the debate was "phantom" and the guidelines laid down by the Personal Insolvency Agency will not be mandatory for anybody to give up a job in the country.

"The guidelines will not impose a condition on anybody, woman or man, to be forced to give up a job," he said.

"Nothing could be further from the truth. Let's put an end to it," he added.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said there was a "level of incoherence" in the Government on the issue.

"These guidelines are anti-women, anti-family and anti-employment," he said.

In response to the outrage the comments have made, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said today no woman will be forced to give up their job as part of a mortgage deal if their childcare costs exceed the wages.

Mr Kenny said the debate was "phantom" and the guidelines laid down by the Personal Insolvency Agency will not be mandatory for anybody to give up a job in the country.

"The guidelines will not impose a condition on anybody, woman or man, to be forced to give up a job," he said.

"Nothing could be further from the truth. Let's put an end to it," he added.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said there was a "level of incoherence" in the Government on the issue.

"These guidelines are anti-women, anti-family and anti-employment," he said.

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