EU & Irish Policy on 'Childcare' - Jan 2015
While the European Commission cannot dictate the Irish Government's Budget, its recommendations carry significant weight. Ireland may have left the Troika's economic programme, but the Government's annual Budget is organised within the European budgetary cycle.
As part of this annual cycle, the European Commission each year makes "Country Specific Recommendations" for each country. Its 2014 recommendations for Ireland, published last summer called on the Government to do something about the cost of 'childcare'.
Over the next few months, the Commission will be assessing what the Government has done over the year in response to its 2014 recommendations. And it will then publish its 2015 Country Specific Recommendations this summer, which are sure to impact on the Government's autumn Budget.
Start Strong recently made a submission to the European Commission, giving our assessment of the Government's actions over the last 12 months, and making suggestions on what the Commission should say in its 2015 Country Specific Recommendations.
No mention of quality
While we welcomed the priority given to 'childcare' by the Commission, we were disappointed that its 2014 recommendation referred only to the cost of 'childcare' and its impact on parents' labour market participation. It made no mention of quality, nor of the positive impact that high quality early care and education can have on outcomes for children.
Our submission recommends that:
- The EC's 2015 recommendations should include specific reference to the need for action by the Irish Government to improve the quality of ECEC services, as well as addressing affordability.
- In order to improve quality and affordability at the same time, Government action on ECEC should take the form of increased investment to extend subsidised places in services, rather than using the taxation system or other demand-side childcare benefits
Our submission to the European Commission reports on the lack of action taken by the Government in 2014 either to address the cost of 'childcare' to parents, or to improve the quality of services.