Back in early summer, Katherine Zaponne and Leo Varadkar were championing a new scheme to look after the ‘squeezed middle’. The government’s new scheme fails to do this.
Back in early summer, Katherine Zaponne and Leo Varadkar were championing a new scheme to look after the ‘squeezed middle’.
All parents were to be able to avail of new childcare subsidies that included an €80 per month allowance for children aged between six months and three years of age. Further subsidies were to be made available on a banded basis for those in lower incomes.
Irish childcare costs are the highest in Europe and consume about one third of a parent’s income compared to an average of one eight elsewhere.
The main reason is that childcare is provided almost entirely by the private sector. This tends to rely on underpaid staff and high charges. One result is that 29% of parents use a relative for childminding rather than sending their child to a crèche.
The government’s More Affordable Childcare programme does nothing to change this.
To make matters worse, the €80 a month subsidy is being channelled through the provider – rather being given to the parents.
As there no price controls are being imposed, the childcare provider can increase their prices from September and tell the parents that the €80 subsidy will be knocked off the new higher price.
There are already strong indications that this is happening. Price hikes of 8 % are being imposed in some instances.
The More Affordable Childcare subsidy is only payable to providers who are registered with TUSLA. But relatives who mind children in their own homes are usually not registered with TUSLA and these parents – more likely in lower incomes – do not benefit.
To really tackle the problem, we need to develop a system of high quality publicly owned childcare.
But Fine Gael’s dogmatic support for the ‘free market’ means they will never take this step.
Instead, they will squeeze the middle and the poor continually.