Issues with childcare in Ireland are a barrier to achieving gender equality in the workplace but many steps can be easily taken to improve the system, according to Darragh Whelan, Director of Childhood Services Ireland, the Ibec trade association for childcare providers.
“There are many deep-rooted problems with the childcare sector that are preventing many parents, particularly women, from re-joining the workforce after having children. Even if they are able to go back to work, lack of access to childcare means they are not able to commit as fully to their careers as they would like. The reasons for this include the cost of childcare, the lack of childcare places and the lack of flexibility in many cases.
“There are many simple things that can be done to resolve many of these problems. We need to improve the subsidies for parents. We need to make it easier for parents and childcare providers to apply for subsidies such as the National Childcare Scheme, which only 48% of parents are aware of. Making changes to planning laws would allow more childcare services to be built. There is no joined up thinking between property developers and childcare providers so that childcare facilities are fit for purpose. There is also a major staff shortage limiting capacity in the sector and we need to make working in the sector more attractive,” Darragh Whelan, said.
Childhood Services Ireland has been calling on the Government to address affordability for parents, sustainability for providers and stimulating growth in the sector to address supply issues. The organisation played a central role in negotiating Core Funding and staff wages with the Department of Children and Siptu over the past year.
Childhood Services Ireland is the Ibec trade association representing over 500 childcare providers across Ireland. In their pre-Budget submission they recommended a trebling of the National Childcare Scheme universal subsidies to €1.50 per hour, increasing the targeted subsidy threshold to a household income of €80,000 and a €20 million improvement to Core Funding to offset inflation, as well as a programme of capital grants to stimulate growth of the sector.