Ap­proach­ing child­care as a purely fi­nan­cial is­sue is unimag­i­na­tive and dam­ag­ing and it isn’t work­ing

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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