Thursday, 14 July 2022
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
I agree with many of the points raised by the Deputy. From my experience in volunteering in the sector, there are challenges around the requirements for facilities for children aged under one year. That is perhaps something that has not been responded to by the providers. There is a significant challenge around the actual layout of physical premises in terms of sleeping areas, etc. That is, perhaps, one of the reasons.
It really falls back on the county childcare committees to work with providers in the county to look at where the deficits are. Certainly, what the Minister, Deputy O’Gorman, has done over the past two years is address much of the sustainability of the sector and the capital funding to help crèche providers to really provide the full range of services possible. It is really important that the Wicklow county childcare committee works with the providers to look at that granular data the Deputy is seeking. That would get to the nub of some of the challenges.
Second, I wish to provide reassurance in respect of the budget package. This will be a cost-of-living budget, as has been widely stated. The Minister is committed to working on the core funding issue but also on the retention of staff to ensure the professional development of people working in the childcare sector can also be addressed. It is critical to ensure that we have a sustainable childcare and early learning sector that can respond to the needs in a particular country or individual community. It goes back to the county childcare committee to support that.
I will absolutely take back the points the Deputy raised. The response does not really give the Deputy the answer she is looking for, which I appreciate. Again, that issue around the flexibility of sessional provision and three to four days' remote working really is something providers should be able to supply families with.