Childcare – financial pressure on parents

 

Sir, – There are two major issues facing childcare in Ireland today. The first is the well-documented financial pressure that parents come under when accessing childcare for their young children. The second is the stark reality that many childcare workers are barely making a living wage.

The Government has introduced two schemes in recent years attempting to ease the financial burden on parents – the National Childcare Scheme (NCS) and Early Childhood Care and Education Scheme (ECCE).

The NCS assists families by contributing to their childcare costs. The amount subsidised is based on a number of factors but in our case it reduces a €920 bill to €860.

ECCE is a scheme more directed towards ensuring all pre-school children avail of hours within an early year’s education setting. The child receives three hours of pre-school care five days a week – for children in creche full-time these hours are deducted from their total fee.

However, there is one entry point yearly, which is September 1st, and the child must be two years and eight months on this date. As my daughter is two years and six months on September 1st, we will miss a whole year of subsidies as we must wait until the following year.

There are thousands of parents in a similar situation.

Having recently had a second child we are looking for childcare for two and are faced with difficult decisions regarding work and childcare arrangements.

We are currently not in a position for one of us to give up our jobs completely. Even if we could, is it right that we are forced to agonise over whether we should abandon careers that we have worked hard to achieve because childcare is so precarious?

Despite the expense loaded on parents, our early years educators avail of meagre wages. It is scandalous that those entrusted with such a responsibility can barely eke out a living. Consequently, they are leaving the sector in their droves. Creches are now highly dependent on the arrival of trainee teachers from Spain, eager to improve their English. I have found them to be kind, caring and excellent at their job but, in most cases, they return home. The fact that the State provides so little in the way of childcare services has resulted in the sector being dominated by private companies.

The reality of being profit-driven has consequences. Parents can barely afford the high cost of quality care and the people carrying out this essential work are unable to make ends meet. The NCS claims it is going some way to addressing the problems, stating that it provides a “flexible, future-focused and sustainable platform to invest in quality Early Learning and Care”. This “investment” is a drop in the ocean. In the meantime, families continue with their struggle to pay the hefty monthly bill. In the meantime, childcare work continues to be a transitory profession.

There must be a better solution. – Yours, etc,

STEPHANIE METCALFE,

Ashford,

Co Wicklow.