Clare T.D. and Chair of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, Pat Breen said that today’s proposals for strategic investment in childcare would improve affordability, quality and accessibility for parents and children across Ireland.
“This major new childcare report, launched by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr James Reilly TD, proposes important changes on how best to invest in childcare services over the coming years. By putting forward costed options it provides a clear path for future investment and represents the most ambitious and detailed plan for childcare ever produced for Government.
“The report proposes three main areas where investment can be targeted:
· A period of paid parental leave, which could be shared by both parents
· An enhanced ECCE provision (currently the ‘free pre-school year’), which would be extended to the point at which primary school starts (this would ensure that from the age of 3, all children in Ireland would be entitled to free education, either in pre-school or in primary school)
· A new single subsidy scheme for pre-school and school-going children, with simplified eligibility based on income. It would cover both community and private settings, rather than the community sector alone as at present. The report says this should be designed to be progressively universal over time
“The report recommends measures to embed quality in the sector, including a quality audit and proposals for upskilling of the workforce, as well as measures to make sure there is adequate supply for future demand. It also recommends carrying out a survey to establish the scope for using school buildings for after-school care.
“This report provides a sound basis for real improvements in affordability, quality and accessibility in the childcare sector, which will improve parental choice and help remove barriers to work.”