Galway TD Anne Rabbitte has said that she plans to bring forward a bill which would exempt all childcare providers from paying commercial rates.
The Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs said that rising insurance costs and commercial rates are making it harder for many childcare providers to stay in business.
This at a time when there is already a critical lack of access to overburdened services for families with young children.
Commercial rates are set according to the Valuation Act of 2001. An amendment to that act in 2015 exempted all non-profit childcare providers from commercial rates.
Deputy Rabbitte has said she is proposing a Valuation (Amendment) Act 2019 which would exempt “buildings and land used exclusively by registered early years and school-aged childcare services providers from commercial rates.”
“Commercial rates represent a significant expense for childcare service providers, with many providers paying tens of thousands for commercial rates alone,” Anne Rabbitte said.
She added that this adds to the cost of the service which is already unaffordable to many.
Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone has said that the government has invested heavily in the childcare sector, doubling access to the ECCE-free preschool scheme from one to two years.
“We have also doubled the number of spaces for the zero to three age group. Baby and toddler places have increased from 13,700 in 2014 to over 31,000 in 2018, an increase of 128%”
“I am aware of the challenges providers face in offering services for babies and toddlers. The challenge is largely attributable to the cost of the higher staffing ratios required”.
The Minister added that the national childcare scheme being introduced later this year will provide subsidies of up to €5.10 per hour to service providers.
“The European Commission, in their country report 2019, warned that Irish families avail of a much lower rate of formal childcare for children enrolled for 30 hours or more,” Anne Rabbitte warned
She concluded by say that this bill is meant to tackle “soaring costs” and prevent businesses from closing down.