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‘We are essentially paying out a second mortgage in childcare every month’

Mother Lynda Butler outlines the impact of childcare costs for her first daughter and how high fees are making her think twice about having a second child.

Lynda Butler

This is the first in a four-part series of letters addressed to new Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration, Roderic O’Gorman, on the future of childcare in Ireland. This morning we hear from a parent of a young child.

DEAR MINISTER O’GORMAN,

Before I ever became pregnant I was aware of the problems that the childcare sector faced in Ireland. Yet, it wasn’t until last year when my daughter turned three months old and my search for a crèche began that the real issues became apparent to me.

I was looking for a place for when my daughter turned one, but as I rang one childcare facility after another, I was told that they were so busy that they were not even taking names for a waiting list.

After ringing over 20 services, I finally found a place near our home that had a place but I had to take it from when she was 10 months old or risk losing it. This was through no fault of the service but merely the Irish reality that childcare spaces are in such high demand.

When I initially spoke to the crèche, I wanted a place for my daughter for four days per week as my job agreed that I could take one day per week for parental leave. This was initially something the crèche offered (€999 per month) but when I went to pay the deposit I was told they were no longer in a position to offer part-time places and I would have to take the place for the full week.

  • Read more here on how you can support a Noteworthy project to examine how we can construct a childcare system in post-pandemic Ireland that works for everyone.

Thinking about the future

The monthly cost is €1,079 and while I understand that they need to cover running costs and staff wages, this amount is essentially a second mortgage paid out each month until my daughter is old enough to attend primary school.

I hope to have a second child in the next couple of years but when I think about potentially paying for two crèche places, I really struggle to comprehend how we would pay for this even though both my partner and myself work full-time in decent paying jobs.

When you are already paying out for a mortgage, having to pay out close to €2,000 on top of this for childcare is just mind-boggling. I’ve spoken to friends in a similar situation and it is something that is making people think twice about being able to have a second or third child.

This is a crazy situation and the cost of childcare should not be something that would stop someone from having another child. The reality, however, for a lot of people is that it is just not feasible.

Initially, it is easy to presume based on the cost of childcare that service providers must be making substantial profits, however, I now know that the high cost of childcare is completely down to a lack of investment in the sector by successive governments. 

Personally, I would much rather see my taxes spent on investment in a vital public service such as childcare than to get token tax breaks that make no real difference to my income.

Childcare workers undervalued

I was so worried when I first dropped my daughter off to crèche, as I am sure that all parents are. Would she settle in well without being upset? Would she be well cared for?

Thankfully, I quickly saw how well she was cared for and how much she was learning from the amazing staff at her crèche. I honestly cannot stress how much I value the staff that care for and educate my daughter. I just wish that our Government would do the same.

Another thing I have learned is that Early Years Educators we all entrust with the care and education of our youngest children are seriously undervalued by the State. They are, in the majority of cases, paid not much more than minimum wage and can have very poor working conditions.

This, again, is a direct result of a lack of State investment. As long as childcare services are unsustainable, and educators are leaving the sector due to poor pay and conditions, the crisis of affordability and accessibility will continue for parents and quality will be lost for my daughter and other children.

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I would hate to see the educators that have developed nurturing and caring relationships with my daughter leave the sector because they cannot afford to stay. The solution is a new funding model in which the government treats childcare as an essential public service and invests in it accordingly.

Lynda Butler is a 37-year-old mother of one living in Artane, Dublin. She works in the community and voluntary sector. Her daughter is 18-months old and has attended crèche full-time since she was 10 months old. 

CHILDCARE CROSSROADS Investigation

Do you want to know the toll that the pandemic has taken on the childcare sector?

The Noteworthy team wants to do an in-depth investigation into this issue and examine how we can build a more resilient and reliable childcare system for Ireland’s future.

Here’s how to help support this proposal>

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Lynda Butler

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