Budget 2017 fails to address conditions and pay for Childcare professionals - Kathleen Funchion TD
Sinn Féin's Spokesperson on Childcare and TD for Carlow/Kilkenny Kathleen Funchion has said that while some measures on the subsidisation of childcare in Budget 2017 were welcome, it failed to address the issue of working conditions and pay for childcare professionals which are at the heart of the crisis in the sector.
Deputy Funchion said:
"The childcare crisis is about so much more than the crippling costs of childcare to parents. It’s a crisis of varying quality standards, and a crisis in working conditions for those providing the care.
"Staff in the sector have been doing their damndest to maintain standards under increasingly impossible circumstances. Not unlike the treatment of nurses in this this state, our childcare professionals who also carry out some of the most important work for our most vulnerable citizens, continue to be sidelined.
"The Ministers' cabinet colleagues clearly do not comprehend the scale of the crisis in the Early Years sector. Because if they did, they would have known that an extra 35.5 million is nowhere near sufficient in tackling it.
"We in Sinn Féin were proposing an overall package that focused on many areas within the childcare sector, including measures that would improve conditions for facilities and staff.. We allocated 252.25 million in our Alternative Budget 2017 as a first step.
"The elephant in the room is the crucial issue of staff pay and working conditions. We can talk all we want about costs to parents, accessibility and quality standards. But if the very backbone of the sector are burnt out, surviving on little more than minimum wage, who will be left in the sector to care for our children? It is a cart before the horse approach. The Affordable Childcare Subsidy announced by the government is still based on staff earning below living wage & signing on over the summer.
"There was no focus on the sustainability of the sector via improvement of childcare professional working conditions or pay. These issues must be addressed immediately if the state expects the sector to survive.
"With minimal increases in ECCE subvention, equivalent to 7 days, and no increase in capitation weeks, there is a long way to go in improving working conditions. Our proposals on increasing capitation and providing an additional 5 weeks would have allowed for better pay and working conditions. In addition, under our proposals, all facilities seeking to avail of our the Early Years subsidisation scheme would be required to allow recognition of a trade union and minimum working standards and appropriate wages for their staff.
"While I commend Minister Zappone for her decision to address Childcare in her Budget proposals, the truth is that parents and those working in the sector were really hoping for so much more. It comes down to investment and political choices. If we don’t meaningfully engage with those working with our children in the sector, truly hear what they are saying and take their issues seriously on board, the crisis will only deepen."