It is too soon to tell if the Government’s new subsidy for parents will push up the cost of creches, preschools, and montessoris, according to an organisation representing some 3,500 early years services.
Some parents have already received notifications that the fees charged for leaving their children at such facilities is to rise in September.
This, in turn, has lead to fears that the non-means tested subsidy of €80 per month announced as part of the new Affordable Child Care Scheme has pushed up the cost of childcare, with more children vying for places in such services, the number of which has not grown in tandem with the demand.
However, Frances Byrne, director of policy and advocacy at Early Childhood Ireland said it is too soon to make such conclusions, but that more investment is needed.
“It’s impossible to know how many providers will increase fees,” said Ms Byrne.
“September is also the beginning of their year and so if fees were to go up, it would happen then. We do know that a high number of settings have not increased fees in years.”
Ms Byrne said that child care workers are on a low wage, despite the high costs to parents, and that more investment is needed.
“Many are mindful of the pressure parents are already under,” said Ms Byrne. “The problem in Ireland is that we are at about half of where we need to be, investment wise, according to the OECD.
“They say 1% of GDP, and we’re at about 0.5% of that. So, we have a very challenging situation where parents feel their childcare costs are like having a second mortgage and yet workers earn an average wage of €11.40 per hour.
“We need more State investment so affordability for parents, quality for children and sustainability for providers can be achieved, and Ireland can match the early years provision in other countries.”
Recently, the Oireachtas Children and Youth Affairs Committee published the a report on the Working Conditions of the Early Years Education and Care sector, which called for greater State investment in childcare, improvements in services across the board, and the introduction of a nationally-agreed pay-scale for the early years workers.
Early Childhood Ireland welcomed the report’s recommendations.
“If implemented, these recommendations would be transformative and help Ireland to deliver high quality and affordable early education and care to our youngest and most important citizens,” said Ms Byrne.
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