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Childcare must remain a Budget priority

Childcare must remain a Budget priority
Zappone response to Newstalk survey
“Transforming one of the most expensive childcare systems in the world into the best needs us to build further on 80% increase in Government investment”
Statement by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone



19th August 2018

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone, today welcomed the publication of a Newstalk Radio survey of childcare costs in Ireland.

The findings chime with existing data published in the annual Early Years Sector Profile, which is compiled from returns from across the whole early years sector.

Childcare costs remain a significant burden on families in Ireland. Minister Zappone acknowledges this and highlighted that:

‘Making childcare more affordable for families is one of the key priorities for me personally and for my Department. At the outset I have always been clear that it will take time and a number of budgets to correct decades of neglect and under investment by successive Governments. Transforming one of the most expensive childcare systems in the world into the best was never going to be easy’.
Government continues to invest significant resources in the Early Years Sector. Since 2016 investment in Early Years sector has increased by some 80%. For the first time ever more than 200,000 children are in Government supported childcare – including more than 80,000 receiving extra benefits since last September.
Minister Zappone continues to work to secure more investment in October’s Budget.
The Minister has also commissioned experts to look at what the real cost of delivering childcare is so that Government can be better informed of what appropriate fees are, and the level of funding that is required to subsidise fees for parents.

In addition to budgetary measures, work continues on the development of the new Affordable Childcare Scheme (ACS). A radical new way to deliver childcare for generations to come. A lot of the preparation is in place, including the signing of Ireland’s first ever Childcare legislation into law at the start of the summer and the signing of a contract for one of the most complex IT systems any Government has undertaken.

The 5 year period covered by the Newstalk survey has also seen a number of important developments in the Early Years. Some of these are:

  • The universal ECCE scheme has expanded from a one year to a two year programme with increased capitation payments. Approximately 120,000 children benefited from this universal scheme last year which offers 15 hours per week of free preschool to children across the school year.;
  • The early years workforce is now significantly better qualified. All staff in the sector now have a minimum Level 5 qualification with increasing numbers qualified to degree level;
  • The introduction of the 2016 Early Years Regulations has contributed significantly to the provision of quality services;
  • The introduction of the Access and Inclusion (AIM) model to allow all children to avail of their ECCE entitlement. Over 6,000 children have received direct supports to date and multiples of this have benefited from more inclusive and supportive services.

In addressing the Newstalk findings Minister Zappone stated that:
‘Over the past number of years we have made significant progress in addressing issues of both affordability and quality in the early years sector. That is not to say that much more does not need to be done to transform childcare in Ireland. When I began the process of changing childcare forever I did see fully aware that this would take time, in Budget 2019 my officials and I are determined to ensure childcare will feature again, as it has done in the past two budgets.
We are on a journey towards making childcare in Ireland not only affordable, but also to ensure that our childcare services are of the highest quality. I believe that, over time, these aims are complimentary and achievable’.