Certainty needed for parents and childcare operators on who should access services

4 January 2021

Ivana Bacik

  • Current crisis demonstrates need for a publicly funded system of childcare and early childhood education.

Labour spokesperson on Children Senator Ivana Bacik has called for the government and Minister O Gorman to give parents and childcare operators certainty on plans for re-opening, and on the definition of essential workers. She has also backed the call for staff in the sector to be prioritised for the vaccine when it becomes available.

Senator Bacik said:

“When the government announced that schools would remain closed until Monday 11th January, it failed to provide clear guidance to childcare operators, instead adopting a strategy of keeping ECCE services closed a further week, but leaving the decision of reopening for private operators in their own hands. The lack of clarity around plans for the safe re-opening of this critical sector demonstrates the need once again for a publicly funded model of childcare.

“Yesterday the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said a list of essential workers would be published later on Sunday, while this morning the Minister for Children said that he would continue to engage with the sector and that there would be a refined list published, based on the definitions previously used in the government’s five-level plan for re-opening the country.

“The failure to provide sufficient certainty on the definition of essential workers for accessing childcare leaves the decision in the hands of parents and places many operators in a very difficult situation.

“For the parents who may decide to keep their children at home, it appears that they will continue to pay full fees, while operators retain the same costs with additional risk of Covid-19 in the community.

“Childcare workers are essential frontline workers, and I would echo the call from the sector for staff to be prioritised for the Covid-19 vaccine when it becomes available.

“What this crisis proves once again is the urgent need for a public model of childcare and early childhood education in Ireland - Labour has consistently called for the development of this model.”

ENDS