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Changes in childcare funding must be opposed – Doherty

17 October, 2007

Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty has called for a debate in the Seanad on the changes in childcare funding due to commence next year. Speaking in the Seanad the Donegal Senator said he feared the new scheme will lead to a two-tiered system which would disadvantage low income earners.

He said, "There is huge concern in the community childcare sector at the changes in funding due to commence next year. I have received several lobby letters from concerned parents in Donegal.

"The new scheme will require community childcare operators to work a tiered fee system according to the income of service users. Services will receive subventions - replacing current staffing grants - to enable reduced fees to be charged to disadvantaged parents. However these parents must be in receipt of social welfare payments and thus will disadvantage those on low incomes who are not in receipt of social welfare.

"Many families using community childcare facilities are on relatively low incomes but do not receive social welfare payments. This means they will not qualify for the new subvention scheme and will be forced to pay even more for childcare.

"In one example were the household income is €485 the cost of child care will increase by 28% from 1 December because of this scheme. This makes a mockery of the Government's claim that the scheme is for the disadvantaged.

"Without a sufficient number of welfare recipients on their books community crèches will be forced to close altogether orraise the fees for those not qualifying for the subvention. Thus low income families could be actually forced to pay more, making a mockery of the Government claim that the scheme is better for the disadvantaged.

"For instance, Community Crèches in Donegal, among others, will have to increase their fees significantly. This means smaller rurally based playgroups that are highly dependent on this provision may have to close as a result of the changing system.

"This is a backward step in Childcare provision and there is a danger that a two tier system will be created and intensified, with working parents choosing other private provision while parents on benefits will avail of community providers thus creating social exclusion and labelling disadvantaged families.

"Many parents currently choose to send their children to a Community Childcare Centre as opposed to a private crèche as they believe them to be inclusive settings reflecting the wider community. These new changes will threaten all of this and must be opposed." ENDS

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