Wednesday, 18 December 2019
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
Neither I nor previous contributors have said anything that is not factual. The facts of the matter are that very many childcare providers believe they will not be able to meet additional insurance costs and therefore may not be in a position to open their doors in January. They are the only facts we need to face. The last thing I want to do is cause panic or anxiety to any parent or childcare worker. Therefore, they have to have a more concrete response from the Government rather than the Taoiseach, with the greatest of respect to him, sounding like an advertisement for Allianz and say what a great provider it is. Perhaps it is, and perhaps its premiums will be reasonable, but that is a considerable gamble. It is a considerable statement for the Head of Government to make given what we know about insurance costs and the behaviour of insurance companies in this State.
The Taoiseach asked me what he needs to do. He needs to give assurance to providers, parents and childcare workers that where those premiums are extortionate or cannot be met, the State will step in on an interim, one-off basis to assist those providers. That is not ideal, but as I said earlier, it is not ideal that we regard childcare and early years education as a matter for the private market. We need to fix that, but in the here and now the absolute priority is that people have complete assurance that their children will have a place in care in January and childcare workers will have jobs to go to. That is how serious this is. I will ask directly. In the event that Allianz does not meet the Taoiseach's high expectations and the premiums cannot be met by providers, will the State step in with a subvention or emergency fund to make sure the doors open in January?