Wednesday, 11 December 2019
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
I spent some of the morning in the Department of Children and Youth Affairs with the Minister, Deputy Zappone, where I had the privilege of formally launching the national childcare scheme, which is now operating. More than 15,000 families have already qualified for the national childcare scheme.
It is a big step forward in terms of the Government's policy in this area, which is to make life easier for families, to build a society with children and families at the centre and to improve work-life balance. It builds on what we have done in terms of two years of the early childhood care and education programme, paid parental leave, extended unpaid parental leave, paternity benefit and now the new national childcare scheme, which will increase childcare subsidies for tens of thousands of families across Ireland. For the first time, some middle-income families that did not qualify for any subsidies will now qualify. If we have the opportunity to build on that over the next five years, that is exactly what we are going to do.
The Deputy raised an important question on childminding. Notwithstanding the fact that I spent the morning on this issue, I did not have a chance to speak to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs about it. I acknowledge that for many families, this is how they provide for childcare for themselves. It is often an individual in the community who the family knows who takes their child for a few hours-----