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McLellan questions DCYA Secretary General on Inter-Departmental Group on Childcare

25 June, 2015

Speaking today during a special hearing for the Health and Children committee, Sinn Féin TD and Spokesperson on Children Affairs Sandra McLellan questioned Secretary General Fergal Lynch of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs whether this Government had any intention to address the quality issue of childcare as well as affordability.

She also questioned how the Interdepartmental Group on Childcare set up by Minister Reilly was intending to end the barriers to access for children with disabilities in this state.

Deputy McLellan said:

“The Secretary General was invited to present to the committee today in order to report back to members on progress of the Inter - Departmental Group on Childcare. 

“I asked the Secretary General if the Minister was serious about improving the quality of childcare, given the recent rowing back on the call for minimum qualifications for childcare workers? He said that this was due to the tight deadline being given for workers to acquire the qualifications by this year. However, he did not give much confidence that the commitment to demanding higher qualifications would be enforced. A structured, realistic and achievable system must be in place in order that workers are supported in the necessary up skilling if it is being demanded of them.

“I also asked in light of the UN's Committee on the Rights of the Child publication list of questions for the Irish government on childcare what the Minister plans to do to address the significant barriers to access for children with disabilities in this state.

“The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has asked the Irish Government to:  Please provide updated information on measures taken to provide early childhood education, particularly for children with disabilities. Please also provide information on measures to ensure that teachers and schools are provided with the necessary training and resources to address the needs of children from ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities.”

“Unfortunately, no information was shared with the committee members around how this was being tackled. We were told, as we had previously been notified by the Minister, that a separate group has been set up to look specifically at the issue of access for children with additional needs. However, the particulars of what exactly that group was addressing regarding funding, and resources were not made available to us.

“My concern with all these working groups set up by this Government to look at specific areas in sectors, is that feedback is scarce. We do not know exactly what kind of progress, or lack of, is being made. We are not much the wiser on specifics or direction as of today. 

“I impressed upon on the Secretary General today some of the main concerns and issues raised throughout our committee hearings on childcare from stakeholders, workers, parents and providers.  He assured that the Inter Departmental Group was following our discussions. I sincerely hope so, and that both the group and Minister will take on board our recommendations and findings.” 

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