Representatives of the childcare sector have said that Budget 2022 does not do enough to address costs for parents, or guarantee sustainability for service providers.
Childhood Services Ireland, the Ibec trade association for childcare providers, says that while subsidised hours of childcare, and expanded access to subsidised childcare for working families and unemployed people are welcome measures, they do little make childcare more affordable.
Budget 2022 announced that government investment in early learning and childcare sectors will grow to €716 million, which includes a €41 million increase to the core allocation to the sector, and a once-off boost of €37 million.
Minister Roderic O’Gorman said that this was the beginning of “transformative” multi-year investment programme that builds on their commitment to increase spending on the sector to €1 billion by 2028.”
Part of the childcare budget includes a new funding stream for service providers, providing them with support in return for a guarantee not to increase fees to parents.
This funding stream won’t come online until September 2022 however, with €69 million allocated for the measure for the months it is available next year.
There will also be an extension of the universal subsidy for the sector, allowing all children under 15 to receive a subsidy to offset fees.
Hours spent in pre-school or school will also no longer be deducted from the entitlement to subsidised hours, a move which is meant to benefit children from low income families whose parents are not in work or study.
Commenting on this, Childhood Services Ireland’s Director, Darragh Whelan, said; “Extending the amount of subsidised childcare hours does nothing for parents who can’t afford childcare in the first place.”
He said that what parents really need is universal subsidies, adding that waiting lists are already too long and that there aren’t enough places to meet demand.
The budget commits to retaining the exemption to the turnover rule for early learning childcare providers in the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme until April 2022, after which it is expected that the EWSS created for the pandemic, will end.
From May to August 2022, service providers will have access to a once-off transition fund of up to €5.5 million per month in order to prevent the cost of additional health measures from being passed on to parents.
“The proposed funding for staff wages is welcome but the investment will have to be significant to reduce parental fees and ensure providers can afford to keep their doors open and the lights on,” Darragh Whelan said.