Concerned groups call for further investment in childcare scheme to support lone parent and low income families
At a press conference today (30.09.2019), the Children’s Rights Alliance, Early Childhood Ireland, National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI), One Family, Social Justice Ireland, SPARK Ireland, St Vincent De Paul, Treoir have come together to call for further investment into the National Childcare Scheme (NCS) in Budget 2020.
The new NCS will provide a universal subsidy to parents to help with the cost of childcare and support children to access early years services. Currently that subsidy is due to cover up to 40 hours of childcare for children in full-time childcare and 17.5 hours for children in after school care. The scheme also provides 15 hours to support children to access early years services when neither parent is working or in further study. The new Scheme will come into operation in October 2019.
However, organisations today emphasised the additional investment needed in the NCS in this year’s Budget to provide extra hours to support lone parents and lower income families to cover their travel time to and from work. The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone is seeking €6.5 million to increase the available hours from 40 to 45 hours for children in full-time childcare and 17.5 hours to 23 hours for children in after school care. The Minister is also seeking to increase the subsidy for parents not working or studying to 20 hours to ensure that vulnerable children do not lose out on the benefits of being in early years’ services. This could mean that a child would get a hot meal everyday while they are in a service.
The groups are calling on Government and the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure, Mr Pascal Donohoe to back the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs’ proposal.
Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, said: ‘The National Childcare Scheme will support hard-pressed families with the cost of childcare. However, investing €6.5 million to support lone parents to stay in work and study is the right investment at the right time. We need to help families to get out of poverty. This must be a priority even with a Brexit budget. And there is no doubt that if we are hit by a hard Brexit, many people will be out of work and families will need this extra childcare support to help retrain for a new job’.
Commenting on the impact the new Scheme will have on lone parent families, Louise Bayliss of SPARK Ireland stated, ‘We are hearing from lone parents who tell us that their only options are to give up work to care for their child or lose out on the financial supports they receive while in work. The NCS doesn’t provide enough hours to allow lone parents to drop off and pick up their children from childcare while at the same time holding down a job or taking up training to improve their chances of employment. If this doesn’t change, it will only force these families even deeper into poverty’.
Tricia Keilthy, Head of Social Justice at St Vincent de Paul highlighted that, ‘Budget 2020 cannot ignore the fact that the way the current National Childcare Scheme is set up, an estimated 10 per cent of people currently receiving targeted subsidies may lose out. With lone parent families already five times more likely to be living in poverty, it is essential this gap is addressed as we believe these families will be disproportionately impacted by changes to childcare subsidies'.
Karen Kiernan, CEO of One Family said, ‘For some children, they really benefit from additional hours in an early years setting with quality supports due to the family challenges they face and we need to encourage and support this where it is needed. We work with families everyday who live in really difficult circumstances, where parents are struggling with personal, housing or family difficulties and it is in their children’s best interest to have extra hours for their long-term wellbeing. The new National Childcare Scheme needs to ensure that these children can be easily referred in and an increased investment in more targeted measures will have a lifetime of benefits’.
‘We currently have some of the highest childcare costs in all of Europe’, Tanya Ward continued. ‘Therefore, this year’s Budget needs to work even harder to support families in this country. The financial constraints presented by other economic challenges should not compromise the investment we make in our children and their early care and education.’
Contact: Emma Archbold, Children’s Rights Alliance, Tel: 01-662 9400/ 0879971410, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Note for Editors:
• The following are available for interview:
o Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance
o Louise Bayliss, SPARK Ireland
o Tricia Keilthy, Head of Social Justice at Society of St Vincent de Paul
o Karen Kiernan, CEO of One Family
• The press conference is being held at 11am, Monday 30 September 2019 in Buswells Hotel, 23-27 Molesworth Street, Dublin 2.
• No Child 2020 Campaign Budget Recommendations to Reduce Child Poverty
• More information about the new National Childcare Scheme can be found at https://ncs.gov.ie/