20 October 2015
By Elaine Murphy
Fianna Fáil General Election candidate for Cork South-West Councillor Margaret Murphy O’Mahony has questioned the detail of the proposals announced in the budget on childcare, warning that the Government has made a number of claims that the small print simply does not stand up.
Margaret said, “I am really concerned about the high costs parents are dealing with in order to have proper childcare in place for their children and the Government is doing very little to tackle this. Fianna Fáil wants to drive down the cost of childcare and assist young mothers in getting back to work if they so choose.
“Unfortunately the Government has decided against pursuing the ambitious childcare policies that we are advocating for. The expansion of the early childcare care and education scheme is not what is seems and parents in west Cork should not be fooled. The announcements are not a full solution to childcare affordability. The free preschool scheme only covers 3 hours per day for 38 weeks, which means that parents working longer than 15 hours per week (or during the summer) have to pay for other childcare arrangements.
“These measures will do nothing to reduce the childcare bills for parents of toddlers (under 3), who will have to continue to struggle with upwards of €800 per month for a full time day care place, without any respite from the government.
“While the government announced that children from ages 3 to 5 and a half year will be eligible to participate on the Early Childhood Care and Education Scheme, it appears that in reality this measure will do little to significantly expand the provision of preschool actually undertaken. Unless Parents are willing to hold their child back starting school until they are over 5 years of age, they will not experience any extra benefit from this announcement.
“For lots of different reasons, most parents will choose to place their child in primary school, as more hours per day of childcare are provided in school than in preschool. Since most children who begin school between ages 4 to 4 and a half they will only avail of 2 extra months preschool (for 15 hours per week or total 120 hours). This is a drop in the ocean for parents working full time and will do very little to reduce their childcare bills.
“The Government has allocated €47m for the expansion of the ECCE scheme, but a full expansion of the scheme would actually cost €180m. Most people will look at announcement and see it for what it is – a token gesture aimed at buying off voters.
“Fianna Fáil is the only party to address the issue of childcare affordability head on and the only party with proposals for directly helping struggling families with the costs of childcare. The Government’s spin disintegrates under basic scrutiny and a lot of parents are going to be very angry that they have been misled in this way.”