Underfunded childcare sector needs Temporary Wage Scheme to remain afloat?

23 June 2020
By Mary Bermingham

Sean Sherlock TD

Labour Party Spokesperson on Children, Cork East’s Seán Sherlock TD has called for the creation of a Citizen’s Assembly on Childcare and for the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme to be expanded to fund the sector fully ahead of the September reopening of Childcare.

Said Deputy Sherlock:

“If it is the case that public funding accounts for approximately 58% of wages in the sector, is it now time to consider continuing with the temporary wage subsidy scheme for the providers who will reopen in September and to use that as a launch pad to build out the employment rights and proper wages akin to people’s qualifications, so we can get the wages element of this resolved once and for all?

“There was an opportunity, which was articulated very well to me by Darragh O’Connor of SIPTU recently, whereby this could have been a launch pad for resolving the wages element of this. We see the high rates of attrition and the fact that some people will now cease to avail of the temporary wage subsidy scheme as it relates to the childcare sector.

“This has created a massive amount of uncertainty, which the witnesses have just articulated. Perhaps it is time for the State to fund paying wages in a way that is done in primary and post-primary schools.

“We need a launchpad for a proper wage commensurate with people’s qualifications across the sector. Public funding accounts for 58% of childcare providers’ income. This is what we will be told later on by officials from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. We therefore, as a society, need to grasp that nettle.

Deputy Sherlock also called for the creation of a Citizen’s Assembly on childcare in an effort to consolidate the different agendas in the sector.

Deputy Sherlock said:

“There are many disparate groups representing childcare interests. I have to be honest; they are all excellent people but there are many different voices and I believe that now is the time for the sector to unite as one voice because it is sometimes difficult for us, as politicians, to distinguish which group represents what interest. Now is the time for some sort of citizens’ assembly to look at the future of childcare provision and the early years sector in Ireland.

“Perhaps it is time to consider having one coherent voice in that regard because, quite frankly, if I was not spokesperson for children I would be largely ignorant of the childcare model. I am telling the truth in that. I am a father of two young smallies as well, so I have a particular interest in this area, but sometimes speaking with one voice is more coherent and can strengthen one’s message in interacting with Government.”

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