Frances Fitzgerald should be embarrassed at how little the State invests in childcare, MEP Nessa Childers said this morning from her office in Brussels.
‘Our birth-rate is the envy of Europe – it’s the highest of any Member State. The likes of Germany, Austria and Italy can only marvel at the 72,000-odd children born annually in this country.
‘And yet, we just don’t invest in this, our future.
‘It truly is scandalous. We know that Irish parents pay more for childcare than any other country globally. They are struggling. We need a quality, subsidised service – and the Government must prioritise this.’
Children’s Minister Ms Fitzgerald said this morning on RTE’s Morning Edition that her department is examining this issue with a view to providing a second free childcare year. She also acknowledged that more affordable services are needed.
But Early Childcare Ireland highlighted that Ireland spends less than 0.5 per cent of GDP on childcare and early education – one of the lowest in Europe. In contrast, Denmark and Sweden both allocate three times this percentage.
‘All around us, European countries are putting us to shame with their superior services. I understand that this country is on a budget, but in any economic state, the current set-up is not acceptable,’ Ms Childers said.
She added: ‘There is a barrage of smaller, ineffective supplements, payments, and allowances. These should be simplified and streamlined by Minister Fitzgerald’s department to allow more parents avail of better services.
‘This can’t continue for another year; another two years while reviews are carried out and examinations take place. The parents of young children need action now.’