Budget contains ‘no reference to need to improve pay for childcare workers’

Unions warn of staffing crisis in sector and say Budget 2019 a ‘missed opportunity’ to improve conditions

Funding for early learning and childcare schemes is to go up by €90m to €574m.

Funding for early learning and childcare schemes is to go up by €90m to €574m.

 

Despite modest funding increases for various childcare schemes, Budget 2019 offers nothing to those working in the sector, according to the National Women’s Council of Ireland.

There also appears to be little if anything for vast majority of working parents saddled with huge childcare costs.

A detailed statement on Budget 2019’s implications for the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, and the organisations and schemes it funds, will be published on Wednesday. Funding for early learning and childcare schemes is to go up by €90 million to €574 million.

These include the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) which is universal for children from the September of the year they turn three, for two years. It is available for three hours, Monday to Friday, 38 weeks a year and as such cannot be regarded as childcare in any meaningful way.

The other main scheme is the Affordable Childcare Scheme (ACS), targeted at low-income families. It is available for children aged four to 15 in registered child-care providers. Over 45,000 children benefitted from it last year - up 37 per cent on 2015/16.

From next year income thresholds for the ACS will go up, widening access. The basic income threshold increases from €22,700 to €26,000 and the maximum from €47,500 to €60,000. The multiple child deduction is going up from €3,800 to €4,300.

The Budget however has given no clear strategy on increasing capacity in the sector - either through increased capital allowances or capitation fees for childcare providers, or measures to increase wages in the sector.

Unions warn the sector is “in the middle of a staffing crisis”.

Darragh O’Connor, sector organiser with Siptu described the Budget as a “missed opportunity” to improve workers’ conditions.

The National Women’s Council of Ireland expressed its disappointment “that there was no reference to the need to improve pay for childcare workers.”

Typically most of those working in early child education and childcare, who must have third-level qualifications, are on little more than the minimum wage. It is set to increase to €9.80 an hour.

Staff turnover in the sector is said now to be in the region of 28 per cent annually.

It is worth noting, despite the increases announced on Tuesday, Ireland this year will spend just 0.2 per cent of its GDP on early years education, compared to an EU average of 0.7 per cent and one per cent in Sweden.

Parents on middle-incomes will continue to pay as much as €1,000 a month for full-time creche fees. The Department itself will get a boost of €127 million next year, while funding for Tusla - the Child and Family Agency will increase by €30 million to just over €786 million.