Sinn Féin has called for a “radical” reform to the childcare sector to assist “hard-pressed” families struggling with costs.
Pearse Doherty described the system as being “desperately in need of support” and said Government measures were failing to keep pace with changes.
Mr Doherty made the comments following the publication of a new Government-led report, which found the average cost of a full-time childcare place nationally has increased by €4 to €178 a week or €700 per month.
"It's a sector which pays well below the Living Wage. We are losing experienced childcare workers to other professions.November 29, 2018
Mr Doherty told the Dáil: “The reality is that the measures that are being introduced by the Government are not keeping pace with the increase in fees that are being charged to hard pressed families.
“We’ve the highest cost of childcare in the developed world so therefore there needs to be radical action and more support and reform of the universal child credit.”
The Donegal TD described childcare costs as a “massive” issue, not only for families but for the wider society and economy.
“For many families, the cost of providing childcare amounts to a second mortgage every single month,” he said.
“For some families it makes more sense for them for one or other to opt out of the workforce due to the scandalous costs involved.
“That simply isn’t right and can’t continue.”
The report also found capacity was decreasing and the staff turnover rate over the past year was almost 25%.
Mr Doherty said in many cases workers were being paid well below the living wage and that many were deciding to leave the sector.
“We need to be actively working towards fair pay for those workers in the sector,” Mr Doherty said.
Tánaiste Simon Coveney accepted that “radical change” was needed within the sector, but he added that was “exactly what was happening”.
Mr Coveney said funding aimed at reforming the sector had increased by 117% in the past four years.
He said that the available budget for childcare had increased from €265m to €574m over four budgets, and that a report showed more families than ever were taking up childcare subsidies and supports.
The research by Pobal found that the number of children attending early years services had increased by almost 10% to more than 202,600 children.
Mr Coveney said there were signs that the situation was improving.
“There are signs, although they are only signs, that childcare costs are stabilising,” he said.
“The cost of full time childcare has increased over the last year by 2% on average compared to an increase the year before of 4%.”
But he added: “So it has halved, but we are not there yet.”
The Tánaiste acknowledged that it was an area that Ireland had not performed well in compared to EU and internal standards.
But he said: “Those stats are changing and the affordability of childcare in Ireland is changing and the supports available for families on lower income in particular is changing quickly but we need to continue down that path.”
- Press Association