State spending on childcare is expected to be increased in this year's budget.
The Budget White Paper revealed the deficit is €13 billion - less than expected, giving the Government more to spend than previously thought.
Ministers have consistently said that reducing childcare costs is a priority and Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman said last month he hoped to double state spending on the industry to €1 billion annually.
Speaking to Newstalk, Frances Byrne, director of policy at Early Childhood Ireland, gave a cautious welcome to the news:
“We’re hearing positive sounds and that’s very welcome as I said... What success will look like for Early Childhood Ireland - and we would argue for parents, children, providers and staff on Tuesday - is the Minister for Finance saying, ‘Here’s the increase for 2022 and here’s the plan for how we double that investment.’
“So that by 2028 that commitment has been met.”
“Ireland, despite the fact that the last Government, believe it or not, increased funding by over a 100%, which was very welcome, we still find ourselves across the OECD bottom of the class in terms of investment.
“So to give some figures, Ireland spent about 0.1% up until last year; when it looks like the final figures come out it will be 0.2% of Gross Domestic Product [this year]. Sweden spent 1.9%.”
Speaking to reporters in Leitrim on Friday, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar dropped a heavy hint about what people could expect on Tuesday:
“What I can say is one of the things we are of course going to examine in the context of the Budget is the cost of childcare.
“It’s still the case for many people [that] childcare is like paying two mortgages or having to pay the rent twice every week and it’s also, from an enterprise and employment point of view, a barrier to people returning to the workplace.
“We’ve skill shortages across the economy.
“Many parents, particularly women but not exclusively women, can’t get back into the workplace because of the cost of childcare.
“So I think it is something that you’ll see the Government focus on in the years ahead.”
Main image: A teddy bear Picture by: Britta Pedersen/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa