Yesterday’s Budget was yet another disappointing example of the Government’s lack of vision and innovation on childcare.
Proposals by the National Economic and Social Forum, which were supported by my party, set out a universal system of early child care, which would cost less than the combination of funds currently dedicated to child care through the early child care supplement and the subvention scheme.
And yet, yesterday the Minister for Finance put more pressure on parents and childcare providers by reducing by almost a quarter the allocation for the National Investment Programme.
That programme provides grants for childcare providers, helping them set up new businesses and maintaining existing ones. Although providers want to maintain the cost of childcare at a manageable level for the average parent, this cut will only heap more pressure on providers and parents.
The Government is reneging on its own promise to stimulating childcare places and jobs in the sector.
It is yet another example of this Government’s lack of ambition and innovation to help the youngest and most vulnerable in our society.
At these pressing economic times, children should never be first to be targeted.
We could be innovative and adopt a child care system that would require less investment while achieving something real and substantial for our children.
We need to bring such thinking to bear on the budget in the coming days. I hope we will do that and discharge our responsibility as a Parliament in doing so.