Concern after-school childcare changes will raise costs for parents

Spokesman for Zappone says concerns about regulations can be aired in consultation period

Plans by Minister for Children Katherine Zappone to introduce new ratios for after-school childcare will significantly drive up costs for parents, Opposition politicians have claimed.

Fianna Fáil and Labour said that new regulations which introduce a ratio of one adult for every 12 children in a premises could also force many centres out of business. It has been claimed that for parents who are not entitled to means-tested subsidies, it could drive the fees by up to 40 per cent.

Anne Rabbitte, Fianna Fáil spokeswoman on children, said the decision was “rushed” and said the ratio would effectively double the number of adults required, a move that would place some centres in jeopardy.

“I am shocked that the Minister would introduce such stringent regulations on after school services without properly consulting the providers of these important services or the parents who use them,” she said. “I would not be at all surprised to see operators leaving the sector.”

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Ms Rabbitte called for an urgent review of the regulations as did Labour’s spokesman on Justice and Children Seán Sherlock, who said the change would drive up costs for parents at a time when there is a staffing crisis in the childcare sector.

“The Minister has not worked out what the impact of the measure will be before introducing this. It will definitely result in closure for after school services because parents will be forced to withdraw if staffing quotas cannot be met by providers,” he said.

“This proposal requires deeper analysis of the effect it will have on the sector. We all want to see proper staff ratios but with the sector in crisis, and with high staff attrition, it seems premature to be introducing this measure at this point of time.”

Earlier a spokesman for Ms Zappone said the 12:1 ratio was recommended by independent experts, including representatives of providers. He also pointed out there was a period of consultation in advance of the regulations commencing, during which such matters could be brought up.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times