Dáil Speech on Childcare Provision. Budget 2011.

Cork North West TD Michael Creed has raised the issue of the cost of Chilcare, during the debate on the financial instruments implementing Budget 2011. Speaking in the Dáil Deputy Creed said:

\”I wish to address the issue of the removal of the benefit in kind exemption for employer provided child care. The yield is expected to be approximately €6 million in a full year. Access to and affordability of child care is a major issue as the cost of child care is the equivalent of a second mortgage and more for many families. I know of someone in Dublin who pays €2,400 a month for three children under school-going age. Child care facilities provided by an employer may seem to place employees in an enviable situation but we should consider what the consequences for employees would be of not having access to child care at an affordable price. Often people without affordable child care cannot take up employment opportunities\”.

\”Another aspect we should consider is community child care facilities that are scattered throughout the country. I must declare an interest in this area as one of my children is in such a facility. These facilities are subsidised through a tiered system and Deputy O’Donoghue, as a former Minister, can take some credit for the network of such facilities. However, we only have a patchwork arrangement. Some communities are well served with such facilities, while others have no access to child care. We could argue that the optimum provision is where employers provide a facility for their employees\”.

\”The expected yield from the removal of the exemption is only €6 million. Rather than remove it, we should be striving to provide a much more comprehensive pre-school child care arrangement at an affordable price. Instead, this proposal dismantles a positive development. I agree that it may only be public service employees or the employees of large corporations who benefit from employer provided child care and that the majority of employees of small companies do not have access to this type of facility. However, that does not mean that affordable child care provision is not laudable or should not be encouraged\”.

\”It seems that we have not thought through the issue of the affordability of child care. Given that we are going through a crisis, the Minister has with the stroke of a pen dismantled one of the most innovative provisions in terms of child care and is penalising beneficiaries without having put in place a comprehensive child care programme. This is a retrograde step. In terms of the minuscule amount of money this move will save, the Minister should step back from it\”.

\”We should be striving for a nationwide, comprehensive, community not-for-profit provision of child care that was subsidised in a tiered way relative to employment status. In the interim, we should not penalise employers who had the foresight to avail of the incentives that were there to provide a service for employees. In light of the costs involved for child care for young couples, the removal of the exemption is a seriously retrograde step. I appeal to the Minister, in the interest of the children and of the ability of parents to be able to afford to go to work, to revoke this decision. One could argue that subsidised community child care facilities sometimes act as a disincentive for people to take up employment opportunities but in this case we are talking about people who are working and availing of a service that has been provided by employers. Now, in one fell swoop, the Minister will dismantle this progressive service for the sake of a relatively small amount of money\”.

\”By its nature, child care affects younger people. These are the same people who are in negative equity and up to their necks in debt with mortgages they cannot afford and in danger of having their houses repossessed. Many of them are also in vulnerable employment situations. They already suffer enough stress, financial and otherwise. I appeal to the Minister not to dismantle what was an innovative provision in terms of child care, all for the sake of a minuscule amount of money in the context of the problems we face\”.

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