The Minister for Children believes an entirely State-funded childcare system is the best model and has promised to dramatically reduce costs for parents.
Roderic O’Gorman has commissioned three bodies of work on the childcare sector, which will allow him to make targeted funding increases.
Asked if he would like to see a fully State-funded model of childcare, Mr O’Gorman said: “I think probably if we were starting from scratch, that’s where we’d start from.
“We know we’re going to see much more State involvement in the provision of childcare in the next number of years, the State involvement has grown both financially and in a regulatory capacity up to this point, and I think that’s going to continue.”
Speaking to The Irish Examiner, Mr O’Gorman promised parents would see “a substantial reduction compared to what they’re paying now” over the lifetime of the current Government.
“I know from knocking on the doors in Dublin 15 over the years, I understand affordability is a huge issue, I know from talking to my own friends and I know that the Government needs to do more.”
Mr O’Gorman said the State has only started investing in childcare in the past decade and a lot of this has been done in an “ad-hoc” and “responsive” manner.
The Green Party TD pointed to the significant investment that had been made as part of the July stimulus programme to support creches and other childcare providers who came under significant financial strain when Covid hit.
“We put very significant additional resources into childcare, to keep childcare facilities open at a time when many of them have suffered a very significant drop in the number of children attending.”
Childcare facilities have received a sectoral exemption to allow them to automatically avail of the employment wage subsidy scheme.
This will cost around €200 million this year and a further €63 million up until March of next year when the scheme is due to end.
Turning to funding and supports that could be rolled out next year, Mr O’Gorman said three major pieces of work are now underway which will inform Budget 2022.
“We’ve got the expert funding group who are basically researching what’s the best way to ensure that when the State does put significant amounts of money into childcare that it achieves goals like reducing fees for parents; like making sure our childcare providers are sustainable; but also ensuring that our childcare professionals are being properly paid and are earning a living wage.
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Mr O’Gorman said the organisational structure and number of bodies involved also needs to change and his Department is examining the best way to “administer and ensure the better development” of the childcare sector.
“The final element there is the workforce plan because we know that it is a very young workforce, it’s an almost entirely female workforce, and it is poorly paid.
“And because it’s poorly paid, people aren’t staying.”
He said those three pieces of work will allow him to better target additional funding into achieving goals like cutting parental fees; ensuring that staff and childcare professionals are getting a living wage and guaranteeing the sustainability of providers across the country.