Affordable Childcare for All by 2014: Wishing Won’t Get Us There, Minister
24 Apr 2012
Dublin, 24 April 2012 - The three organisations behind the 7 Is Too Young campaign have said that they continue to have grave concerns about changes to the One Parent Family Payment as set out in Section 4 of the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill. Following a meeting with Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton yesterday, OPEN, Barnardos and the National Women's Council of Ireland said that they continue to oppose the removal of the lone parent payment once the youngest child reaches 7 years as set out in the Bill. The group welcomed the Minister's commitment to developing childcare and after school care in Ireland, but said that they were not convinced that quality childcare of the kind needed can be delivered in the very ambitious timeframe being put forward by the Minister.
Frances Byrne, Director of OPEN, said: "While we all support the development of a Scandinavian approach to childcare and after school care in Ireland, we do not believe that changes to the One Parent Family Payment should be cemented in legislation before affordable and accessible care is in place. The Minister has made it clear that there is no extra funding available for investment in restructuring childcare services in the short or medium term. We simply do not believe that radical reform of childcare services can happen in the next 18 months when the changes set out in the Social Welfare Bill would become a reality for lone parents, particularly in light of the current fiscal climate."
Norah Gibbons, Barnardos' Director of Advocacy, said that after school care provision in Sweden was based on legislation in the country's Education Act, which is underpinned by common guidelines and principles and delivered largely through schools: "We absolutely support the development of such comprehensive services here, in fact they are the kind of services all of us have called for for many years. However, we would ask the Minister to provide evidence of any country that has made the kind of transition in childcare services we are talking about in just 18 months against a backdrop of cutbacks and the need to generate exchequer savings. Where is the evidence that it can be achieved?"
While the group said that they do not doubt Minister Burton's commitment to the development of childcare services, with her Cabinet colleagues Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Minister Ruairi Quinn, the fact is that Ireland has long had a model of childcare provision that is based on a private, for-profit industry model. The three organisations stated their support for moving from the current model towards fully State subsidised provision but categorically rejected the introduction of legislation to remove income supports for parents before reform is underway.
Orla O'Connor of the National Women's Council of Ireland concluded: "We have always been in favour of welfare reform to end child poverty for all children in Ireland. We remain committed to progressive reform of the social protection system. However, we cannot stand behind legislation that we believe is contrary to the best interests of children and families. It is incomprehensible that changes that will increase child poverty should be set in stone before comprehensive reform of childcare services is underway. In the absence of a framework for restructuring the delivery of childcare and after school care services in Ireland, Section 4 of the Social Welfare Bill must be removed. "