Approaching childcare as a purely financial issue is unimaginative and damaging and it isn’t working
Secondly, the scheme excludes those who have made the decision to stay at home and care for their kids. Forgoing a second income is a significant economic sacrifice. Shouldn’t rearing children at home also be more ‘affordable’? Particularly given that we have it enshrined in the Constitution that a parent in the home is important for society. A tax credit to all families would have been fairer and more appropriate.
A tax credit would also have been fairer to the childcare providers. Like the ECCE scheme, I believe this scheme puts an unnecessary burden on the already stretched and undersupported early childhood sector. It is also indicative of the regard in which the early childhood sector is viewed by the Government. Did the GPs have to do all the paperwork when the Government introduced free GP care for the under sixes? No — the parent registers online. Do the property developers have to do the paperwork when the Government introduces budget measures that boost their industry by making property more ‘affordable’? Hardly.
But the childcare providers are expected to take on all this extra work without complaint and for very little compensation. And not only that, they are insulted by the Minister who warned them in this paper that if they raise their fees and fumble in the greasy till, she will scrap the scheme and the whole thing will be ruined for everyone.
Her comments at the Kennedy School referring to the poor pay and conditions in the sector and urging workers to form a union can only have poured salt in the wound.
I have seen first-hand the care, the dedication and the passion with which childcare providers execute their roles over the last four years as my child attended a Montessori nursery run by the most amazing women. Yes, crèche fees do hover around the €1,000 mark depending on the age of the child, but to me, they are worth every penny.
The fact that we can’t afford them is not down to greed on the part of the childcare sector, it is because we have had successive governments that failed to understand that the first years of a child’s life are the most important in terms of determining who they will become. It is a sector that should be embraced by the Government and supported entirely, as are our national and secondary schools. It should be respected and revered, and not spoken about like it were a rogue bank or a vulture fund.
Sure, in any privatised sector you will always get the odd operator who cuts corners and takes any opportunity to boost profits, but I believe the rhetoric of the Minister has been very unfair. Private childcare providers stepped into the chasm created by successive inept governments that failed to change with the people and provide the facilities we required.
So really, it’s not the childcare sector’s fault that we can’t afford their fees, Minister Zappone, it’s yours.