Sinn Féin spokesperson on Children, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin T.D., has called on the Government to prioritise funding for quality, affordable childcare, claiming that it makes social and economic sense.
Speaking on tonight's Dáil motion on childcare Deputy Ó Caoláin said;
"We in Sinn Féin believe that childcare is a right. Policy must be geared to the needs of children and families rather than solely to the needs of the labour market. This state still has one of the lowest rates of childcare provision in the EU. Many families on lower incomes either cannot get childcare at all, or else must pay a disproportionate amount of their income on weekly childcare bills.
"The lack of quality, affordable childcare prevents many women who wish to do so from working outside the home. This was confirmed recently in the Donegal Childcare Committee Report Supporting Working Families: Releasing a Brake on Economic Growth. This report showed that high child care costs are putting a quarter of parents off returning to the workplace or looking for an opportunity to commence employment, with most low-income families finding the cost absolutely impossible to meet.
"There is an absolute and urgent need to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy for childcare provision. While some progress has been made since Sinn Féin first raised this demand, this Government, like its predecessor, has been far too slow to act.
"I would encourage the Minister to reference the experience in the North of Ireland. The Executive there recently published their Strategy for Affordable and Integrated Childcare entitled Bright Start. As is so often the case and this is especially true in relation to the subject of childcare, one doesn’t have to re-invent the wheel. Others have travelled this road before and can show the way. It is a matter of recognising the import of the issues at hand and having the political will to see improvements implemented and realised.”