Only 3% of childminders have applied for special tax scheme
Fine Gael Social & Family Affairs Spokesman David Stanton TD has described the Government’s Childcare Strategy as a failure because childcare costs have risen by 23% in the last two years, while the number of places available is still well short of demand.
“Neither the Early Childcare Supplement nor anything else in the Government’s Childcare Strategy have had any impact in reducing the childcare costs facing parents. Statistics released by the CSO in May 2006 show the cost of childcare has risen by 23% in the past two years, with average childcare costs now standing at €500 per month.
“The supply of childcare places is still totally inadequate. A new report compiled by Cork City Childcare Committee has found that, in Cork alone, there are just 1,700 places available for 4,000 pre-school children, or less than 45% of the childcare places needed.
“And the fact that the Early Childcare Supplement, aimed at helping parents to meet the high childcare costs in Ireland, is being paid to children outside the State due to the Government’s failure to legislate competently, seems a complete waste of resources.
“There is also the issue of quality in early education and care. There is currently no national education standard (curriculum) for pre-school children. Minister for Children Brian Lenihan has indicated that from 2007, all crèches and pre-school groups will be required by law to provide early childhood education, and that regulations governing this will be published later in the year. This falls far short of what should be a Government commitment to the provision of pre-school education for all children. Fine Gael has proposed a Childcare and Early Education Credit which would have allowed all parents to avail of pre-school education for their children.
“Even more alarming is the existence of an unregulated childcare sector which is not open to inspection and which parents have to take on trust. Far from making progress on child safety, we are actually regressing.
“The first crèche inspection reports published earlier this year revealed a number of alarming breaches of regulation. I have been urging the HSE to publish these since early January 2006. Government incentives for the unregulated childminding sector have been a total failure. In Budget 2006, the Government introduced a €10,000 tax exemption for childminders on voluntary notification. However, I discovered by way of a parliamentary question in May that only 3% of the country’s 37,900 childminders have applied for the tax scheme.
“On Budget day I criticised the Government’s new childcare package by saying that if childminders earned just 1 cent above the €10,000 limit, all their income would be subject to taxation. Having tried to get a more updated figure on the numbers of childminders who have applied for the tax exemption, I was informed that no figures would be available until tax returns were filed in 2007. The Government is simply trying to cover up the fact that they have no means of regulating the quality of care and education being provided by 97% of childminders.
““Parents need to be sure that no matter what form of childcare they choose for their child, they will be safe, secure and happy. When it comes to childcare, quality and safety matter. There is no room for Government complacency or self-congratulation, as we are a long way from having a world class service for our children.”