Charity says new childcare subsidy is "a step in the right direction"

A subsidy of up to €1,040 per year towards childcare costs for young children will be available from September

Charity says new childcare subsidy is "a step in the right direction"

File photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Barnardos is welcoming the Government’s new childcare initiatives.

Today, the Government announced €4 million funding to help create more than 5,000 extra places in 225 "school age childcare services".

It comes as families with a child under three will be entitled to receive up to €1,040 per year towards childcare costs from September.

The subsidy is a universal payment that will not be means tested, and the Government is launching a campaign to raise awareness of the new supports.

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone said: "These new subsidies will create greater parental choice and financial support for families so they can achieve their full potential.

"Our childcare goals are ambitious. They have to be. I remain fully committed to work with parents and providers so we can finally turn one of the most expensive childcare systems in the world into the best.”

June Tinsley is head of advocacy at Barnardos.

Discussing the new subsidy, she observed: "It's certainly a step in the right direction - it's great that it's a universal provision, because it certainly recognises the value of quality early years for children's development.

"Of course, the amount needs to be built upon, but we hope than in Budget 2018 more funding will be provided."

However, professionals are warning that the new initiatives will put strain on the system if support measures like extra staff are not introduced

Marian Quinn from the Association of Childhood Professionals says it will not work if things stay the way they are.

Speaking on Newstalk Drive, she pointed out: "We've had a number of people [contacting us] who've had to close their services over the last year [...] because their services are unsustainable.

"Increasing the cost of minimum wage is going to put a cost onto the service... Increase in rent... Insurance has gone up three-fold. The cost of delivering those services, with more and more regulation being put on the profession, that's costly to deliver as well."

She added: "There's no two ways about it - the services they are currently providing are not currently sustainable."