Most adults want free childcare for all, survey shows

Majority say they want new government to prioritise investment in childcare

The majority of Irish adults want the new Government to prioritise investment in childcare, a new survey shows.

The Childcare Barometer, conducted on behalf of Early Childhood Ireland, an organisation representing parents and young children, also found public support for childcare to be made available free to all children.

According to the survey, 71 per cent of adults in Ireland want the next government to prioritise greater investment in childcare, while 84 per cent of adults strongly support the establishment of a single, dedicated agency to oversee early years and school age care in Ireland.

This would replace the current system where childcare providers are required to report into seven different government agencies and departments, Early Childhood Ireland said.

The barometer also reveals that 72 per cent of adults believe the Department of Children and Youth Affairs should continue as a full government Department, rather than being downsized or merged by the next government.

72 per cent of adults surveyed agree the education of children under five is as important as the education of children over five, and 67 per cent believe that, similarly to primary education, childcare should be available free to all children.

Frances Byrne, director of policy and advocacy with Early Childhood Ireland, said the results show, for the third year in a row, that there is "significant and widespread public support for greater investment".

“Childcare is a redline issue for families all over Ireland. Decades of historic underinvestment have led to a status quo in which providers are underfunded, staff terms and conditions are poor, and parents face high fees,” Ms Byrne said.

“This year’s barometer reflects a broad desire for a better approach to childcare in this country, including the establishment of the first ever dedicated agency for our sector.”

Ms Byrne added that the group presents a “ready-made” mandate to political leaders in advance of the formation of the new government.

“It is clear that the care and education of our youngest citizens is hugely important to Irish families,” she said.

Earlier this month, tens of thousands of childcare workers and parents marched through Dublin’s city centre on Wednesday as part of a “day of protest” over pay and conditions in the sector.

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is a reporter for The Irish Times