A nationalised childcare system would guarantee that every child in Ireland can access early-years education, according to the Labour TD Ivana Bacik.
She was speaking after Early Childhood Ireland (ECI) warned that the recruitment and retention crisis in the sector could see soon services collapse.
The group is calling on the Government to double its investment in the childcare system over the coming years – and set out exactly how it plans to do so in the upcoming budget.
It has warned that most early-year educators currently earn less than the living wage and can no longer afford to remain in their profession.
A survey of childcare workers in Ireland carried out by ECI found that eight-in-ten plan to leave the sector within a year if things stay the way they are.
Just over 40% are actively looking for work in other sectors, with three-quarters citing low-pay as their reason for leaving the sector.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, the Labour Party spokesperson for children Ivana Bacik said the State must take the first steps towards a universal public childcare system in the upcoming budget.
She said the Labour proposal would see the State investing in childcare providers in the same way it does for primary and secondary schools.
“What we want to do is guarantee that every child in Ireland would have a place in early education,” she said. “A place in childcare.
“Children should have the right to a pre-school place and early-years education. What we need to see is the State subsidising the existing providers to a greater degree and ensuring there are sufficient places there.
“For all parents, access to childcare is a real problem. There is a lack of places, they are very costly and we know those working in the sector […] are paid poorly; that there is very little by way of job security and indeed huge problems with recruitment and retention.”
Deputy Bacik said the State is already subsidising childcare to a “great degree.”
“The reality is we are now already ensuring there is a great deal of State money going into the sector, but we are not seeing the return,” she said.
“It is too piecemeal and for parents and children alike, there just isn’t the guarantee of a place nor is it affordable.”
She said Labour’s proposal would see childcare nationalised on an incremental basis.
“We would phase it in and first roll out a pilot scheme for 6,000 children on a means-tested basis and that we would see then how we could roll it out further so that every child in Ireland could access it,” she said.
She said there are cross-party calls for childcare reform in the Oireachtas – but insisted Labour’s plan is “more radical I think and ultimately a vision that is better for parents.”
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