Childcare Costs Set to Rise as Government subsidy falls short – Ó Laoghaire
As more detailed plans have emerged of last week’s announcement by Minister Zappone of the Single Affordable Childcare Scheme, Sinn Féin spokesperson for Children and Youth Affairs Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has warned that it is likely that the costs of childcare for many parents is set to increase, offsetting a large proportion of the Ministers measures.
Deputy Ó Laoghaire was speaking today after a meeting of the Children’s Committee where some of the issues were discussed further:
“As more details of the Minister’s scheme have come to light, I believe that there is a significant danger that the cost of childcare is almost certainly going to increase to those using the services.
“We had a briefing with the department yesterday which was beneficial. However, in the Q&A session that followed, it became clear that the subsidies introduced could very likely be offset by further costs.
“This is a result of significant underfunding, which has led to poor payment of staff and also providers struggling to meet their own increasing costs. Should these factors be left unresolved, the increased fees are practically inevitable unless the state bears the cost. At the current level of subsidy being provided by the Government, it will not be able to do so as the level of subsidy is wholly inadequate. Greater subsidy, and in particular, much enhanced capitation, is required to control costs.
“The language being used by the Department officials was that similar to many Fine Gael Ministers, with an unwillingness to ‘interfere with markets’, which certainly does not put my mind at ease.
“Taking the rental market as an example; as capacity issues arise, the price of the good or service tends to go up. This is a reoccurring trend across many departments and sectors. Some form of monitoring and management of fees is required.
“The sector simply does not have the capacity, particularly in urban areas, to meet the likely significant interest and probably considerable increase in demand and it will not be capable of expanding in time for September.
“The Department have said they do not expect any capacity issues in the foreseeable future, yet on the other hand, they claim their new measures will increase labour market participation as affordable childcare would allow parents to return to work.
“There is an urgent need for developing a strong capacity plan, for investing significantly in developing capacity, both in bricks and mortar, and in capitation.
“While I welcomed the Minister’s new scheme last week, I feel that as we delve into the detail, the issues with the scheme are coming into focus.”