Fianna Fail Faces Revolt Over ‘Flawed’ Childcare Plan

A Fianna Fail TD has slammed the new way of funding community childcare places as “seriously flawed” and “reinforcing welfare dependency”.

Fianna Fail TD Chris Andrews said the changes will force low income parents to stop working as they won’t be able to afford to pay for creche places if their income exceeds the new limits.

The creche places of up to 10,000 children in community non-for-profit childcare facilities will be affected, according to the early childhood group IPPA, which represents 2,500 creches and playgroups.

The children of low income working parents will be particularly badly affected, according to Mr Andrews.

“What it’s doing is ghettoising and reinforcing welfare dependency. It’s going to actually stop people moving out of social welfare dependency. It’s going to reduce peoples’ choices where both are working,” said the Dublin South-East TD.

Thousands of parents in receipt of subsidised childcare places face the possibility of losing them next year, when the subsidy will be paid instead to parents on full social welfare payments, or those in receipt of Family Income Supplement.

This will push up the price of childcare dramatically for low to middle income parents, earning just enough to put them over the income threshold.

“The objective is right and there does need to be tightening up in the way the money is spent. But they are using a method that is seriously flawed,” according to Mr Andrews.

“It’s a really blunt form of means testing,” he added.

Under the new Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS), parents in receipt of social welfare will receive an €80 weekly subvention for full day-care, while parents in receipt of the Family Income Supplement will receive a €30 weekly subvention.

This will replace the current funding for non-profit making childcare providers through staffing grants, which allows them to offer reduced rates to disadvantaged parents.

Service providers who point out that the true net weekly cost of childcare ranges from €160 to €190 per child, claim that the new scheme will result in increased charges for those on lower incomes, making childcare unaffordable.

Mr Andrews compared the system to the infamous savage 16 social welfare cuts five years ago, which the Government was forced to reverse. “Personally, I think it’s going to be similar to Mary Coughlan’s miserly reductions to some schemes,” he said.

Following a heated meeting by 70 Fianna Fail TDs and Senators with Minister for Children Brendan Smith last week, Mr Andrews said the funding changes were an issue across the country.

The backbencher says he’s not blaming Minister Smith as he is “new to the brief”, but the civil servants advising him on the policy.

Mr Smith argues the new scheme will allow the continued targeting of additional resources towards disadvantaged parents.

The Minister also insists services, including full-time, part-time and sessional ones will be available to disadvantaged parents at more appropriate rates under the new scheme.

Existing grant recipients will be funded at their current levels until next July, to allow creches make the necessary adjustments to their fee structures.

However, Siobhan McLaughlin, spokesperson for Community Development groups, said that the cost for full day care for families with annual earnings of €22,000 will rise from €60 to €100 or €110, jumping to twice that for two children.

“That means that a third of your wages are going on childcare and that is unaffordable.

“Because of the time frame and the way that the new scheme is structured, there is a high possibility that a very large percentage of these creches are facing closure,” she said.