Via regulation and pricing, government will make informal arrangements in home settings unworkable, and will force babies as young as 24 weeks into creches, says Margaret Hickey
NEW mother Ruth Davidson cited personal reasons for resigning as leader of the Scottish Conservative party. The care of a small baby and a demanding public role didn’t combine well for her.
But every job is challenging when you’re a new parent. Small children need the kind of care that is best delivered by familiar, loving adults who know them, and who deepen the rapport with them, day be day and week by week, as they develop.
Continuity, consistency, familiar surroundings, and unrushed, loving voices create the milieu in which small children learn how to relate to others and love and trust.
It is how they develop a sense of security and a sense of self.
It is the bedrock of their future social and psychological development.
Is there any new research that points to different conclusions? Children do not do well in institutionalised care. Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone, should know this.
Parents know this. But the nanny state purports to believe otherwise. Zappone and the Government are willing to place babies as young as 24 weeks in full-time creche care, which can be from 8am to 6pm for commuting parents.
The few hours left in the waking day are swallowed up by travelling home and catching up on domestic chores. There is little, if any, time and energy for quality parent/child interaction during the working week.
The majority of young parents both work because of economic necessity. Most of them don’t have careers that offer fulfilment and promotion.
The very least they might expect to get from the State is support for their choice of childcare. Whatever happened to trusting parents? Why can’t they choose the kind of care model they want for their own children?
Given choice, many parents favour relatives, neighbours, or family friends, people who already have a relationship with their children.
Given the shocking revelations on investigative TV show Prime Time about the mistreatment of children in Dublin creches, why does Minister Zappone want to extend even more oversight responsibilities to the discredited Tusla?
Are parents not better-placed to vet the people to whom they entrust their own children? Does the State have a right to abrogate that choice? Minister Zappone is using subvention to professionalise and regulate childcare in a way that will make it difficult, if not impossible, for the home-based care many parents prefer.
A childminder, who had cared for children in her home for 15 years, spoke at the launch of the National Children’s Scheme of the costly, onerous regulations and intrusion into her home by Tusla, which led to her decision to deregister from the agency. She felt she was being forced into the creche system via unrealistic demands to adapt and upgrade her home.
But is that not the whole point of the Government’s new policy? It is obviously impossible for Tusla to vet and monitor many thousands of home-based childminders when they can’t do that effectively for creches.
So the informal, parent-chosen options must be forced-out, priced-out, regulated-out. And, yes, prosecuted-out.
There will be no choice for parents, because it suits the Government. Just one compulsory system.
This is the ugly face of ‘big government’.
Parents should be supported, irrespective of what model of care they choose for their children.
Whether they choose to care for them in their own homes, in the homes of relatives, or in the homes of other people they consider suitable and trustworthy should be a matter for them to decide. However, a family income cap, or other eligibility test, is not unreasonable.
Of course, this isn’t about children at all. Nor is it about their parents, nor what benefits them. It’s about the economy stupid, once again.
Home-based minders are not in the tax net per se, apart from the ninety or so who have registered with Tusla. So the status quo may be an unquantified, unapproved form of de facto subvention.
But then, on the other hand, parents can’t claim tax relief in these situations, either.
Resetting the balance between taxation and benefits, between taxing childminders appropriately and enabling parents to pay them, is both feasible and fair.
But the Government knows that. So it may not be only about the economy after all.
With Katherine Zappone in charge, it’s very likely to be about ideology, too.