The new funding model for childcare is the “first step” towards reducing the sky-high costs facing Irish parents, according to the Children’s Minister.
Roderic O’Gorman yesterday announced details of a new €207m per year plan that will offer childcare providers State funding in exchange for freezing their fees.
The plan aims to improve pay and condition for workers in the sector while ensuring parents do not face yet another hike in fees next year.
The plan has already faced criticism from Childcare Services Ireland – which has warned it does nothing to reduce the sky-high costs parents are already facing and is severely lacking in detail.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Minister O’Gorman said the new scheme is the first step towards reducing fees.
“Childcare fees are far too expensive in this country,” he said. “I have always said that and I am committed to reducing it.
“The measures we have brought in, both in the budget this year and the policy measures announced yesterday, are the first step towards finally addressing that issue.
“Previous Governments have brought in the National Childcare Scheme (NCS) - again, money going directly into the pockets of parents to save them money - but that money has immediately been eroded when childcare providers have had to raise their fees.
“What I have introduced now is what I believe is the mechanism to actually prevent this vicious cycle continuing. We can actually get fees capped and we can then work to reduce them through the NCS in the future.”
Minister O’Gorman said the plan commits a “very significant amount of additional money” to the childcare sector.
“This is the first step,” he said.
“It was important to get that support for services in there so they can pay their staff properly and we can get that agreement not to raise fees.
“Once we have that, the next steps we take in terms of direct investment into the NCS will immediately benefit parents and let them see fees are decreasing.”
He said the plan will mean future monies committed to the NCS will “directly save parents money” while also supporting staff in the industry.
“Importantly, this will make sure that children are getting the best early-years experience possible,” he said. “That the staff they have are trained and experienced.
“We all know that childcare staff are leaving the childcare sector far too regularly because they don’t see that future for them in it.
“If we can guarantee that future for them and show them how they can progress, they will stay in the sector and that will result in better outcomes for children.”