Budget 2023: ‘Childcare measures welcome but they should go further’

Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said he didn’t believe the measures went far enough to alleviate the pressures of families struggling with financial pressures.
Budget 2023: ‘Childcare measures welcome but they should go further’

Sinn Féin Cork South-Central TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire does not believe the budget went far enough to alleviate the pressures on struggling families.

A CORK-BASED preschool owner hopes that measures introduced to combat rising childcare costs announced in yesterday’s budget will help bring Ireland in line with other EU countries.

Minna Murphy from Kildinan preschool welcomed measures that include the ring-fencing of €59m in core funding to childcare providers to increase capacity in the sector as well as improve pay and conditions for workers.

Other announcements included a €121m scheme that will cut childcare costs by up to 25% for families from next year.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath (Fianna Fáil) said the measure will put up to €175 a month — €2,100 a year — back into the pockets of parents next year.

Families are also welcoming news of a double payment of the monthly child benefit, in November.

Nonetheless, preschool owner Minna Murphy warned that changes made to core funding will need to be sustainable in order to transform Ireland’s childcare sector.

“Ireland has among the highest costs in the EU when it comes to childcare,” Ms Murphy said. “It’s about time that childcare costs reached the same levels as other European countries.

“The danger is that when you focus on one aspect of childcare another area suffers. The Government needs to make sure that the measures taken are sustainable.”

She said the pressures on pre-schools to freeze their fees in order to benefit from funding are difficult.

“There’s a little criticism that the service providers have to freeze their fees. I understand the reasons for it but I feel it was a drastic measure at a time when everything is getting more expensive. January 2023 will have the mandatory sick pay leave.

“Providers’ costs are going up but it’s still unclear if the Government sees that. We need to focus on sustainability to offer the places for the parents and children when they need it.”

However, Ms Murphy stressed that the move is still positive.

“There is still a long way to go but we are moving forward and every step is positive. In some ways I am a little bit sceptical and afraid. The Government need to realise that the sustainability needs to be there. If the services are struggling then employment goes down and parents are in a panic because there’s no childcare in the area.”

“The rising energy costs and salaries makes you wonder if the core funding will cover everything you need. It’s hard every year for a childcare business to see what’s coming in and how they can budget for it.

“You are left wondering if you have enough for everything. The drive and initiative to change the childcare industry in Ireland for the better is there. It’s a positive shift for early years facilities and the parents. We are coming closer to fellow EU countries.”

She described the importance of maintaining the sector.

“The early years sector is a vital service as well as being highly important, not just for children and their development, but also for the needs of parents.

“This will be a positive change as long as the government ensure ensures everything is in balance.

“Childcare is still a political hot potato but everybody working in the sector wants some stability and guarantee.

“We are one step forward to a better system for everybody.”

Mum of two, Anju John from Glanmire felt that Budget 2023 announcements did little to reassure struggling families.

“While the budget was family-friendly I really felt the only benefit was for people with low to medium range incomes,” Anju said. “The Government are not going above that even though you need an income of more than €70,000 to live comfortably with your kids and family in this country. The budget focuses on everything below that.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said he didn’t believe the measures went far enough to alleviate the pressures of families struggling with financial pressures.

Mum of two, Anju John from Glanmire felt that Budget 2023 announcements did little to reassure struggling families.
Mum of two, Anju John from Glanmire felt that Budget 2023 announcements did little to reassure struggling families.

“Sinn Féin proposed a two-thirds cut in childcare costs,” he said. “While the Government cut is welcome, like a lot of policies in this budget, they have taken a Sinn Féin measure and halved it.

“The savings should have been more given the cost-of-living crisis we are facing.”

His comments come months after Early Childhood Ireland called on Government to transform the early years and school age care system by including an ambitious five-year investment plan in Budget 2023.

Teresa Heeney, CEO of Early Childhood Ireland, had a positive reaction to the news.

“We welcome the news that parents will see a 20% to 25% reduction from January 2023,” Ms Heeney said.

“A national communications plan to promote this scheme to parents must be forthcoming.

“Neither parents nor operators can afford to work from one budget to the next.

“We hope to see further details from the Minister for Children and we will be reinforcing to him the need for a long-term investment plan with new funding targets which will move Ireland to Nordic levels of investment.”

She praised childcare workers for their resilience during a difficult period.

“Ireland has lagged at the bottom of international public investment tables for decades, and this legacy of under-investment has had a severe impact.

“Parents in Ireland pay some of the highest fees from take-home pay in the European Union.

“Operators, overly dependent on these fees, have managed precariously in a complex and fragile funding environment.”

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