Childcare fees up by ¤7 a week, study finds
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.