Urgent need to address childcare crisis
Sinn Féin MEP MaryLou McDonald hosted a conference in Dublin today on Childcare in Europe. The conference was addressed by Anne Huotar MP of the Left Alliance party in Finland, Sandra Piccinini representing a childcare group based in the town of Reggio Emilia, Italy, Mary Lee Stapleton of the National Children's Nurseries Association (NCNA) and Sinn Fein Dail leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD among others.
Speaking at the conference Deputy Ó Caoláin referred to a recently published report by the Forum on the Workplace of the Future. He said, "The study uses a points system and assesses each state's childcare supports for families with two parents working. It compares all 15 pre-enlargement EU states. Denmark is placed at the top of the class with a score of 88.45. Our Finnish guest will be interested to know that her state gets the bronze medal, coming in third with 56.69 points. Our other guest from Italy has a bit of catching up to do as that country is a middle ranker with 35.66 points.
"And what about poor old Ireland? You‚ve guessed it. We get the wooden spoon again, coming in last of the 15 states with a pathetic 5.64 points. And this is even worse when you consider that the second worst scoring state, Spain, has 18 points.
"This lack of priority is shown by the fact that childcare is nominally within the remit of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I believe it is totally inappropriate for that Department to be responsible for this vital area. The childcare issue is clearly not a priority for the current Minister Michael McDowell and it should be taken out of his hands and out of his Department. I would say that most citizens would be totally unaware that the Minister or his department have any responsibility in this area. His own utterances on the matter, let alone his actions, could be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Closing the conference MaryLou McDonald MEP thanked all the Irish and European guests for attending and participating in what she described as an "interesting, informative and much needed conference."
She said, "It is clear from this conference that Ireland is a hundred miles behind everybody else when it comes to the provision of childcare. Sinn Féin has been at the core of promoting the provision of comprehensive childcare.
"The Government's failure to ensure comprehensive childcare provision has negative consequences for children, women, families, society and the economy. Lack of adequate childcare, including pre-school, after-school and out-of-school childcare, continues to restrict the participation of parents of young children, particularly women, in the workforce, education and training. There is an urgent need to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy for childcare provision up to and beyond the completion of the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme in 2006." ENDS