Child­care fees up by ¤7 a week, study finds

The Irish Times - - Home News - CIARÁN D’ARCY

The cost of early years child­care has in­creased and there are fewer places avail­able, ac­cord­ing to a new study.

Full-day fees have in­creased by an av­er­age of ¤7, bring­ing them to ¤174 per week, the first such rise in five years, the na­tional sur­vey of child­care fa­cil­i­ties found.

Pre-school places in Dún Laoghaire-Rath­down were most ex­pen­sive, cost­ing ¤228 per week for full-day care, while Wick­low and Fin­gal also came in above ¤200. Leitrim and Mon­aghan were the least ex­pen­sive ar­eas at ¤142 each.

The price dif­fer­ences were largely con­sis­tent across full-time, part-time and ses­sional care, the sur­vey by Pobal, a not-for-profit com­pany that man­ages pro­grammes on be­half of the Gov­ern­ment and EU, found.

Va­can­cies fell by 23 per cent over the last year to just be­low 16,000, down from over 20,000 for the 2015/16 aca­demic year, and the av­er­age num­ber of chil­dren per fa­cil­ity rose from 42 to 44 over the same pe­riod.

Done­gal, Car­low and Clare had the high­est percentage of va­cant places, while all four Dublin lo­cal author­ity ar­eas had the low­est pro­por­tion of va­can­cies along­side Sligo, Water­ford and Long­ford.

Over­all, the num­ber of chil­dren availing of the Gov­ern­ment’s Early Child­hood Care and Ed­u­ca­tion as­sis­tance pro­gramme was up 63 per cent to 120,000 in 2016/17, due largely to the in­tro­duc­tion of the sec­ond free preschool year.

Child­care cen­tres have pre­vi­ously is­sued warn­ings over their ca­pac­ity to cope with in­creased de­mand aris­ing from the sec­ond free year. In terms of work­ing con­di­tions, half of all staff in the early years sec­tor are part-time, and there was also a high in­ci­dence of em­ploy­ees on 38-week con­tracts.

Unions have crit­i­cised such sea­sonal work­ing pat­terns, say­ing they of­fer lit­tle wage se­cu­rity to the co­hort in ques­tion.

Early years staff were paid an av­er­age of just un­der ¤12 an hour, with wages high­est in Dublin and Cork, and low­est in Car­low and Laois, the lat­ter be­ing the only county in which av­er­age pay dipped be­low ¤11.

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