Thursday, 14 July 2022
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
I thank the Minister of State. I understand that this is not his area. The response that the vacancy rate in Wicklow is at 16% is quite disappointing. Many parents have contacted me to say the opposite. In fact, one parent said she contacted 46 crèches and minders before she found someone. There is obviously a problem. When we talk about averages, what needs to be reflected is that Wicklow is a very diverse county with many towns and villages. Some villages have no access at all to any childcare and they will obviously not be reflected in those figures.
The other issue is that when we talk about childcare, we are looking at a wide range of ages. Although the Minister of State showed me the same statistics, Pobal also said that only 0.6% of the childcare places in Wicklow are for children who are aged under one year, which is the second lowest in the country. There is an obvious issue in Wicklow, particularly when it comes to younger children and babies. That is not reflected in that figure either. To say that we found an average vacancy rate and that everything is fine is to dismiss the problems parents are facing. It indicates that the Department is not listening to people or aware of what is happening on the ground. One could do a desktop study and come out with these averages, but that is actually not what parents are feeling or what they are finding. We are talking about women who had to give up two job offers because they could not get a crèche place. That is completely unacceptable.
I ask the Minister of State to bring that message back to the Department. It needs to look closer at the granular data in respect of the ages of children and at the different locations in Wicklow to identify where there are problems. When the it identifies a problem, the Department needs to go in and focus on it. It cannot be left to the market because the market is not delivering when it comes to childcare.