Half measures on childcare will not suffice - Ó Caoláin
As members of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party prepare to meet in County Cavan next week, Cavan-Monaghan Deputy and Sinn Féin spekesperson on Health and Children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has welcomed the fact that the issue of childcare will be on the agenda. "It has taken a long time for the Fianna Fáil party to wake up on this issue. Half measures will not suffice as real progress on childcare is long overdue from this Government", stated the Sinn Féin Dáil leader.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said there had been widespread anger and disappointment at the failure of Budget 2005 to address childcare needs. "Parents and childcare providers, especially those in the community sector, were let down badly in last December's budget. This Government has a lot of ground to make up", stated Ó Caoláin. "Regrettably a further year of inaction will have passed even if Finance Minister Brian Cowen does address childcare in Budget 2006. That is on top of the eight years of neglect."
It is "no coincidence", stated Deputy Ó Caoláin, that Sinn Féin had been campaigning vigorously on childcare both before and after last December's budget. He said:
"In November 2004 Sinn Féin tabled a comprehensive Dáil motion in our 'Private Members Time' calling for a programme of action on childcare. Over five years since the publication of the National Childcare Strategy childcare provision is still, in the words of the Strategy, 'uncoordinated' variable in quality and in short supply.‚
"We made childcare the theme of our pre-Budget submission to the Minister for Finance and called for a wide range of measures including essential improvements in paid maternity and paternity leave, the introduction of parental leave, increases in Maternity Benefit and Child Benefit to help cover childcare costs, increased revenue for the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme, including capital, staffing and operational funding to increase the number of quality childcare places.
"We need to see the development of a comprehensive system of early childhood care and education. Scandinavian countries have provided an excellent example but this State is very far from that standard. This is the basis on which any announcements from the Slieve Russell Hotel next week will need to be measured."