Families under pressure with childcare costs could soon benefit from proposed new Government subsidies.
The planned scheme would involve the State paying part of the costs directly to crèches, but it will not cover parents who want children to be cared for at home.
The funding, which would be means-tested, could start as soon as next September.
Dr Sheila Garrity from the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre in NUIG, says there are some issues to be ironed out but the plans are generally positive.
“They will set standardised regulations for providers to be part of this scheme.” she said.
“So that’s a positive in that we can use the funding to leverage quality and leverage affordability.
“There’ll be an online system for an application, and that’s also positive because that allows the family that privacy around their family income, and it’s not stigmatising families who require subsidies.”
SIPTU has called on the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, to ensure that Early Years educators are paid a fair wage as part of the new childcare plan she intends to introduce.
SIPTU sector organiser, Darragh O’Connor, said: “Early Years workers are hugely dedicated professionals who care for and educate children during the most crucial years of their development.
“Despite the importance of their work these workers are usually paid less than a living wage and receive little recognition for their qualifications or their contribution to society.
“The average hourly rate for a ‘childcare assistant’ is just €10.27 per hour, whereas the accepted living wage in Ireland is €11.50 per hour.
“Many of these workers pay almost €5,000 to gain their professional qualifications but can earn as little as €5,700 per year.”
SIPTU organiser, Eira Gallagher, said: “Any new plan for childcare must be based on affordability for parents, sustainable services and decent wages for Early Years professionals.
“This can only be done by increasing Ireland’s state investment in Early Years education to the OECD average of 0.8% of GDP.
“We are also calling on the Minister to include Early Years workers in her consultations regarding the future of childcare.”