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Most people believe parents should be supported to stay at home until their child is 1 year old

Childcare Barometer 2020 shows significant support for the creation of a single, dedicated childcare agency.

Teachers from Little Learners in Dublin attend a demonstration as childcare workers take part in a protest in Dublin's city centre over low wages and to highlight the childcare crisis, 5 February.
Teachers from Little Learners in Dublin attend a demonstration as childcare workers take part in a protest in Dublin's city centre over low wages and to highlight the childcare crisis, 5 February.

A MAJORITY OF Irish adults believe that all parents should be financially supported to stay at home with their child for the first 12 months of the child’s life, according to a new survey. 

The Childcare Barometer published by Early Childhood Ireland found that 68% backed its proposal for parents to be financially supported for one year. The strongest support came from women (79%) while 59% of men backed the idea.

The survey of 1,000 adults found that 72% of them agreed that the education of children under 5 is as important as the education of children over 5, but there was less support (67%) for childcare to be free to all children.

Eight out of 10 respondents supported the establishment of a single, dedicated agency to oversee early years and school-age care in Ireland, replacing the current system where childcare providers are required to report into seven different government agencies and departments.

PastedImage-20594 Source: Childcare Barometer 2020

Childcare costs were drawn into the spotlight last year, with some parents claiming they were charged a fee equivalent to their mortgage in monthly childcare payments.

Some childcare providers, who went on strike recently, have said that their pay is too low, that there aren’t enough providers, and that insurance costs are too high.

In December, some crèches were left in the lurch after a major insurer left the Irish market, causing a spike in prices.

The then-minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone gave crèches a once-off payment of up to €1,500 to keep crèches open in 2020, costing a total of €7 million. 

PastedImage-55802 Source: Childcare Barometer 2020

Director of Policy and Advocacy with Early Childhood Ireland Frances Byrne, said the umbrella body for the childcare sector has seen “significant and widespread public support for greater investment” in childcare for the third year in a row. 

Childcare is a redline issue for families all over Ireland. Decades of historic underinvestment have led to a status quo in which providers are underfunded, staff terms and conditions are poor, and parents face high fees.

Byrne urged all parties, especially those partaking in government formation talks,  to closely note these findings and to commit to a 10-year programme of radically enhanced investment in childcare.

She said it is clear that the care and education of our youngest citizens is hugely important to Irish families, adding “the next government must make this a priority”.

In Sinn Féin’s party manifesto, it pledges to reduce the “exorbitant” cost of childcare “by €500 per child per month”. It is also promising to deliver an additional 26 weeks of maternity or paternity leave “to enable a parent to be with their child for its first year of its life”.

Fianna Fáil is promising to “quadruple childcare subsidies for parents using creches, from the current rate of €20 to €80, meaning that just over 40% of childcare costs will be met through subsidies”.

In the Green Party’s 14-page Childcare Policy Document, it outlines plans for “publicly run State creches delivered predominantly by local authorities”.

The Labour Party aims to set up a system where “regulated and inspected childminding services will be eligible to provide government-funded schemes”, and that the scheme “will prioritise community-led, not-for-profit childcare models”.

The Childcare Barometer is based on a nationally representative survey of 1,000 adults, which was carried out between 16 and 22 January by RedC Research on behalf of Early Childhood Ireland. 

With reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha 

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Adam Daly

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