From top: Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe; Minister for Business Heather Humphreys; Tánaiste Simon Coveney, Ms Humphreys, Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty and Mr Donohoe at City Assembly House, Dublin; Fine Gael tweet
Fine Gael held a press conference at City Assembly House in Dublin to explain how the party will “support working families”, including their plans for childcare.
In Fine Gael’s manifesto, the party says the following in regards to childcare:
We know the pressures parents are under because of childcare costs. We have made progress – increasing investment from €265m in 2015 to €638m for 2020, up 141% – but we know people are still paying too much. We will reduce childcare costs further, increase quality and support the childcare sector.
Fine Gael has doubled the number of children benefiting from subsidies, doubled the number of places and doubled the free pre-school (ECCE) scheme through a significant investment.
In 2019, 175,000 children received average subsidies of €64 per week. More than 9,000 children are receiving the highest weekly subsidy of €145. Over the next five years, we will invest an extra €400 million, as we reduce childcare costs for parents and increase quality and accessibility. This will bring annual investment in childcare to more than €1 billion in 2025.
Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty
on RTÉ’s Late Debate, hosted by Katie Hannon, the panel included Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty; former RTÉ broadcaster Valerie Cox, who is standing as an Independent candidate in Wicklow; Fianna Fáil’s John Lahart; Labour’s Kevin Humphreys and Daniel McConnell, of the Irish Examiner.
During the show, Ms Doherty repeated the above electoral promises.
Valerie Cox pointed out that many childminders cannot avail of State subsidies because of particular rules in regards to registering for these subsidies.
From the exchange:
Valerie Cox: “The Government are dealing with creches and making them the centre of childcare whereas I met Childminding Ireland the other day and these are people who mind children in their own homes.
“But what the Government has done to them is quite extraordinary really because they want to be vetted by gardai, they want to have all of the supports that the creches would have. But instead of that, the Government has decided that people who have children in their own home cannot be vetted and cannot register with Tusla, unless they’re minding a minimum of four children. And many people are only minding, you know, one, two, three.
“So that’s a very difficult thing for them. Yes, it’s very expensive, but probably better for children in many ways to be in somebody else’s home. Because if you’re commuting from Wicklow and you’re regularly commuting to Dublin or North Wicklow, the children are going to be there for a longer time. So probably the home environment is a very useful one for them to be in.”
Katie Hannon: “Is that the case, Regina?”
Regina Doherty: “No. So if you look at the manifesto, the National Childcare Scheme that was announced and commenced last November is only for registered creches and registered childminders.
“But the pathway is to try and find a fine balance between what you just described, which is in the common good, of children being in a home, a family home, a home from home setting. But also ensuring that the governance that’s required by Tusla, that the certain standards and settings are required for. So we’re not going to pay taxpayers’ money without ensuring that the quality of care is of a standard that it needs to and we need to find a mechanism to be able to do that.”
Hannon: “Ok, but as it stands…”
Doherty: “That potentially is inviting those people to become registered because, at the moment…”
Cox: “But they want to be registered, but they can’t be registered…”
Doherty: “At the moment, we only have 81 registered providers in the country and that’s why Fianna Fáil want’s tax incentive to those registered providers is a real misnomer because it’s not going to work.”
Talk over each other
Hannon: “It’s not going to be a misnomer if, if, if…you’re saying that, as it stands, you have to be registered, you have to be Garda vetted, obviously, all of these things. But you’re saying that’s not the case? But in the next breadth you say, ‘well, it is now, but we’ve a pathway that we want to take’.”
Doherty: “No, so it’s not the case right now for the National Childcare Scheme that was announced in November.”
Doherty: “What we’re going to ensure that we do over the course of the coming year is that with the extra €400m subsidy, is that we get it to the places that it’s needed the most which is into the pockets of the people who are paying the childcare fees to whomever they’re paying it for. But it has to be with a level of governance and a minimal acceptable standard…”
Hannon: “So are you saying that those people, that Valerie is talking about, the people who are minding two and three children, maybe taking in an extra child because they’re stay-at-home parents themselves. That they will be…”
Doherty: “Invited to be registered, if that’s the way we want to go in the future. You know, so there’s. What we want to make sure is that we get the available money that’s earmarked in our budget, the extra €400million that we’re going to spend on subvention to the parents of the families that are spending this extra mortgage every month.”
Doherty: “No, if that means we have to invite people who are registered, or who are unregistered at the moment, to become registered, well, we need to find a mechanism for brining those people into the system.”
Hannon: “But you haven’t found that mechanism yet?”
Doherty: “No, we will be inviting them to become registered. At the moment, the restrictions are that they have to have a minimum number of children in order to be registered. Who says we just can’t change that?”
John Lahart: “But you’re the minister.”
Hannon: “So, you’re in Government. That’s what….the Government you’re a member of hasn’t changed it.”
Cox: “But that’s what Government does though, doesn’t it?”
Doherty: “Absolutely indeed and we were the Government that…”
Listen back to Late Debate in full here