Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone has been forced to deny any row with Fine Gael over the Government’s childcare plan.
The Independent TD has put forward proposals to subsidise childcare, a scheme that would initially be rolled out to low-income families.
It is understood Fine Gael is concerned it will not help the “squeezed middle” and party members want the plans extended to include those earning between €32,800 and €70,000.
Ms Zappone said such reports “don’t reflect at all the reality of what is going on in terms of budget negotiations”, adding: “I don’t know where these phantom sources are coming from.”
Describing the budget negotiations as “amicable”, she said she believes Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Paschal Donohoe shares her commitment “to do something significant” in relation to childcare and early years learning.
“Minister Donohoe and other members of the party are well aware that my ambition is to ensure that all families in the country are supported by the State in some way or another in terms of their childcare, the needs of their children in terms of early years learning, and also after school care. And that is what is currently going on,” she said.
“In relation to the particular scheme that my department is developing, which I think will bring us on a radical new path in the way the State subsidises the childcare needs of families, yes, there is a focus initially in terms of investment for the low-income families.”
She said the numbers who qualify for the scheme would be dependent on the amount of investment the State decides to provide.
“Certainly, in terms of the policy paper that went before Cabinet, yes, €47,500 was a potential threshold at which there would no longer be subsidies for childcare — public subsidies for childcare as the scheme begins.
“But that’s just a possible figure, an indicative figure, and it is also a figure that relates to the net income of households,” she said.
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