Subsidised childcare ‘unfair and unjust’ on stay-at-home parents

Iona Institute says Government’s childare proposal is ‘extremely concerning’

According to the report, the new system would be means-tested and would see the State pay a portion of the family’s childcare costs directly to the childcare provider. File photograph: Getty Images

According to the report, the new system would be means-tested and would see the State pay a portion of the family’s childcare costs directly to the childcare provider. File photograph: Getty Images

 

Proposals to introduce a subsidised childcare system are “unfair and unjust” on stay-at-home parents the Iona Institute says.

Reacting to a report in Friday’s Irish Times, the conservative think-tank said it was “extremely concerning” that the Government would consider the move.

According to the report, the new system would be means-tested and would see the State pay a portion of the family’s childcare costs directly to the childcare provider.

It is expected the system would be rolled out over a number of years, starting with low-income families. In some cases, the entirety of the costs could almost be covered by the scheme.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his Cabinet colleagues were briefed on the details of the proposed scheme on Thursday.

An indicative figure of €47,000 per couple was given as a possible initial threshold to qualify for the subsidy.

David Quinn, founder of the Iona Institute, called the proposal unfair on parents who did not want use childcare outside the family.

“If the Government goes down the path of heavily subsidising day-care that would be unfair and unjust towards the very many parents who don’t use day-care and often don’t want to use day-care.

“The State must be neutral between day-care and other child-minding options.”

He said a Central Statistics Office (CSO) study from seven years ago found that 80 per cent of pre-school age children do not use any kind of day-care.

“Most of those who are not placed in day-care are looked after by a parent or another family member,”he said.

Mr Quinn also referenced a poll commissioned by the Iona Institute in 2013, conducted by Amarach Research, which found 17 per cent of respondents regarded day-care as the best option for children under 5 years old.

Half said the preferred option was to be looked after during the day by a parent at home, and a quarter thought the preferred option was to be looked after by another family member such as a grandparent.

“Taking these figures together, it should be obvious that subsidising day-care at the expense of other options is emphatically not the way to go. The best alternative is probably a direct payment to all parents of young children, means-tested if need be, so that parents can then subsidise the choice that suits them best and not be directed towards one option only,” Mr Quinn said.