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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 192-196
 Header Item Child Care Costs
 Header Item Child Care Costs
 Header Item Child Care Services Provision
 Header Item Child Care Services Regulation
 Header Item Army Barracks

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 926 No. 2

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Written Answers Nos. 192-196

Child Care Costs

 192. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if she will elaborate on the single affordable childcare scheme and the way it aims to raise the low income of workers in the child care industry; the way she will ensure that the subsidy will be passed on to workers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32215/16]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone My Department does not act as employer to child care workers, so wage rates, in addition to pay for preparation time, holidays, etc, is in the first instance a matter to be settled between the employer and employee, in line with relevant legislation.

  My Department accepts that the sector is under cost pressure, and that staff wages are a large component of cost. To go some way towards addressing this, I have secured additional funding of €14 million in Budget 2017 which will enable ECCE providers to be paid for a 39th week and part of a 40th week (7 ECCE days in total or 1.4 ECCE weeks) where they will have no children present and they will be able to pay staff to concentrate on administrative workload. Services themselves can decide how to use the payment when it is received. For the average ECCE service with 25 children, this will mean an additional annual payment of approximately €2,400 per annum.

  Part of the additional funding €14m will be given to CCS and TEC providers on a pro-rata basis also to acknowledge their administrative burden also. The Affordable Childcare Scheme when introduced in Sept 17 will replace CCS and TEC and will have recognition of non-contact time built into its cost base. I will monitor the use made of non-contact funding provided for ECCE services and will review the payment in the event that this is not passed on to staff in the form of an additional week's pay.

  The Independent Review of Cost, to be commissioned by my Department, will also help to clarify the extent to which workers' wages are a driver in the cost of childcare, and vice versa.

Child Care Costs

 193. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the way the single affordable childcare scheme will prevent child care facilities from driving up prices even further; the monitoring mechanisms in place to prevent this; if the introduction of a cap on fees will be introduced sooner rather than later in an effort to prevent price hikes, a cap similar to that already introduced as part of the state funded ECCE; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32216/16]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone The Single Affordable Scheme, which I have announced as part of Budget 2017, is intended to support parents in meeting the cost of childcare. Childcare providers set their own fees, and there is no current plan for the Government to control fees, which would be a major intrusion in the market and could, if not managed carefully and appropriately, create risks around the viability and quality of childcare provision. The Programme for Government includes a commitment to carrying out an independent review of costs. This review will be overseen by my Department and will include analysis on the potential benefits and risks of imposing price caps on childcare providers.

It is intended that all providers participating in the Scheme will be required to have their fees published so that parents can compare providers and can see what their co-payment would be after taking account of any State subsidy.

Child Care Services Provision

 194. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone her views on whether the provision of child care needs to move away from the profit driven model currently in place, in view of the issue of low wages for workers in child care facilities, very high fees for parents using these facilities and the demand that will arise for child care places after future schemes are introduced; her plans to develop child care as a State-funded service provision into the future in view of the fact that her Department already funds an array of State schemes in private run facilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32217/16]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone Pobal's most recent profile of service providers in the childcare sector indicates that, at present, 39% of all childcare workers work for community providers underpinned by a not-for-profit business model. Of the remainder, a significant number operate as sole traders. As such, it is not the case that low wages in the sector are caused primarily by a drive for excessive profits. However a greater understanding of the current components of cost is required to develop appropriate policy in this regard. The Programme for Government commits to conducting and publishing an independent review of the cost of providing quality childcare in Ireland. This commitment aligns closely with work on the design and development of the new Single Affordable Childcare Scheme, which I announced in Budget 2017, and is currently being progressed in that context.

It is proposed that the review will consider (1) the total average cost of quality childcare provision, (2) variation in cost and the reasons for same, (3) the link between cost and quality, (4) the cost of providing childcare services in disadvantaged communities and (5) the likely impact of future cost pressures, including the ongoing professionalisation of the sector.

It is envisaged that the Department will tender for independent expertise to conduct the review in the autumn with a view to ensuring that the review is commenced later this year.

Childcare providers set their own fees, and there is no current plan for the Government to control fees, which would be a major intrusion in the market and could, if not managed carefully and appropriately, create risks around the viability and quality of childcare provision. My Department is committed to developing quality, affordable childcare through state subsidised schemes such as ECCE and the Single Affordable Childcare Scheme, which will be introduced from September 2017, ensuring that a greater number of children will benefit from state funded childcare.

Child Care Services Regulation

 195. Deputy Anne Rabbitte Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if the grandfather scheme applies to child care providers which have years of experience in the sector and run their own business; if so, when this grandfather scheme is due to expire; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32271/16]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone Under the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016, registered providers of pre-school services will, from 31st December 2016, be required to ensure that each employee working directly with children attending the service holds at least a major award in Early Childhood Care and Education at Level 5 on the National Qualifications Framework or a qualification deemed by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to be equivalent.

When the Regulations were being drafted, consideration was given to granting an exemption to certain existing childcare staff who intended to retire from the sector in the near future, did not hold the minimum qualification and who did not wish to undertake a course of training at this stage.

The option to apply for this exemption was first publicised, through the local City/County Childcare Committees, in the second half of 2014, at which time it was anticipated that the Regulations (and thus the minimum qualification requirement) would be introduced by the Department to support existing childcare staff in achieving the minimum qualification.

The new Regulations were published on 4th May 2016, to commence on 30th June 2016. The Regulations stipulate that persons seeking to avail of the "Grandfather" exemption must - by 30th June 2016 - have signed the necessary declaration and be in possession of a letter from the Minister confirming that the exemption had been granted. Where this exemption has been granted, providers are entitled to continue working in childcare until 2021.

Army Barracks

 196. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding the use of a house; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32288/16]

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe The position is that Ballymullin Barracks in Tralee remains operational and has a Reserve Defence Force (RDF) Unit based there. It is used for RDF training purposes and other military activities. My Department has not received any request for the use of a property in the Barracks.

  If the Association make a request for the accommodation required, detailing their proposed use of the accommodation, it will be considered.


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