Zappone looking at options to help parents who use unregistered childminders

Local TD and Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone says she is working on proposals to help parents who use unregistered childminders and cannot avail of the subsidies that were announced in Budget 2017.

The scheme will provide parental means-tested subsidies towards the cost of childcare for children aged six months to 15 years and universal subsidies of up to €80 a month or €900 a year for all children aged between six months and three years.

The subsidies will be paid for children and young people attending a Tusla-registered childcare provider, including centre-based providers and childminders. She said:

“This Government continues to attach a very high priority to the work of Tusla – the Child and Family Agency.

“Tusla provides essential services to some of the most vulnerable children and families in our society.

“I am satisfied that Budget 2017 provides the necessary additional resources to continue with its ambitious programme of reform and provision of services.”

Meanwhile a new report from the ESRI has said that parents from less well-off families are more likely to turn to relatives to mind their children.

The ESRI study highlights that unpaid relative care, by grandparents especially, is more common among less advantaged families.

Using data from the landmark longitudinal Growing Up in Ireland study, the report shows care by relatives is the most common type for infants with centre-based care becoming more commonly used for three-year-olds.

“Paid, non-relative or centre-based care is more common among more advantaged families; unpaid relative care is more common among less advantaged families,” the ESRI said.

Ms Zappone says she is working on proposals to help parents who have to use childminders who are not registered and therefore cannot avail of the subsidies and she hopes to have the proposals in place by next September.

Speaking on Tuesday night she said:

“There are many parents who are staying at home because the costs of childcare are prohibitive.

“If the State weren’t supporting stay-at-home parents in any way I would be concerned . . . but the investment we are working on is being encouraged by Europe.

“We have received country-specific recommendations for a number of years that our childcare costs are too high.

“We need to reduce them in order to reduce child poverty and increase female participation in the labour force. Those are the policies we are pursuing.”

One Family, an organisation representing people parenting alone, said the ESRI research indicated that “growing up in a single-parent family structure represents a source of inequality in children’s lives”.

Youth Work Ireland, an umbrella group for almost 500 youth clubs and organisations, says the ESRI study shows just how far Ireland needs to travel before it can be said that it is cherishing all children of the nation equally.

It welcomed Ms Zappone’s initiative as the first concerted drive by Government to help young people who have been effected by the recession since the downturn began eight years ago.