Commenting on Minister Zappone’s hosting of the Open Policy Debate on Child Poverty in association with the Children’s Rights Alliance, Sinn Féin Children and Youth Affairs Spokesperson Kathleen Funchion TD said that while she supports the initiative’s objectives, Zappone must reflect on the fact that the new National Childcare Scheme launched this week is disenfranchising vulnerable children in homelessness by failing to create a new childcare system that identifies and targets the most vulnerable with critical supports via full day childcare provision.
Deputy Funchion said:
“Today’s debate focused on a wide range of issue’s relating to child poverty, including identifying systems and implementation measures that will reduce child poverty, the role of income and targeted payments in addressing child poverty and identifying key quality services that will reduce child poverty in the short-term and the long-term.
“While I commend the objective of this initiative and the work of the Children’s Rights Alliance, the Minister and her Department need to recognise the very issues being discussed today are not being reflected in the roll out of the New National Childcare Scheme which was launched just this week.
“In fact, the reality is that vulnerable children living in homelessness are not being identified and targeted with the provision of childcare services they so badly need.
“I have been told first hand by childcare providers that children who should be in receipt of support are falling through the net.
“Those working in homeless services have said it is very unclear how the process works or even who in the local authorities or the Dublin Regional Homelessness Executive is responsible for receiving and processing the applications for placements in childcare settings.
“As a result, homeless children are losing out not only on their places in early learning settings, but also vital early intervention such as AIM which is provided to children with additional needs through attendance at their designated créche.
“I have also been informed that Public Health Nurses (PHN) who are in a position to refer children into childcare settings, that the process is similarly unclear within the HSE.
“This is a massive oversight of the new system and needs to be rectified immediately by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.
“I am hugely concerned that in the rush to roll-out the new NCS, the sponsorship aspect has been side-lined and adequate training and information has not been provided to those organisations who will have responsibility for administrating the system.”
Note to editor: The following designated statutory bodies may make referrals for childcare support under NCS, for the specific reasons outlined:
- Minister for Education and Skills to support parents under the age of 18 years to remain in education or training through access to childcare services.
- Minister for Justice and Equality to facilitate access to childcare services for applicants within the meaning of section 2 of the International Protection Act 2015 and programme refugees within the meaning of section 59 of the International Protection Act 2015, so that parents or children can access education, integration and other relevant supports.
- Child and Family Agency to enable participation in a childcare service as part of the provision of child care and family support services by the Child and Family Agency to promote the welfare of children who are in need of additional care or protection.
- HSE to enable participation in a childcare service where there is an identified need for childcare as an additional support to the home environment to meet child development needs for a child who is under the age of 4 years and who is not enrolled in a pre-school programme funded by the Minister or the Minister for Education and Skills and who would otherwise not attend a childcare service.
- Local authorities to support families who are homeless or moving out of homelessness, to access childcare services.