GOVERNMENT’S decision to put work first and children second in the new National Childcare Scheme (NCS) is a fundamental misunderstanding of disadvantage, said Labour Senator Marie Sherlock. Calling for Government to make immediate changes to the NCS, Senator Sherlock said no child should be excluded from the care and stability that they desperately need.
Senator Sherlock said:
“Every child deserves a fair chance at life. However, under the new scheme rolled out in 2020, there are children whose parents are not in work or work part time and require childcare or afterschool care, who now find themselves excluded or entitled to less than under previous childcare schemes. This requires immediate action and we need to ensure that every child has an equal start. Many of the families directly affected by this change live in very challenging situations – addiction, mental health, physical ill-health or cramped accommodation. The creche or afterschool plays a vital part in providing stability and reassurance in the child’s life.
“Children’s needs must be put at the heart of any childcare scheme, irrespective of their parent’s circumstances. Any basic understanding of long term joblessness and the situations that these families find themselves in means that that assurance of affordable childcare support has to be in place first, before parents can go job seeking.
“In the context of a childcare system that is already pushed to the brink of its capacity, we have been inundated with correspondences from providers affected. One early years manager told me that they have a situation where a six year boy whose mother, a lone parent, has had numerous mental health difficulties and very poor literacy. She depends on the afterschool service to help her son with his homework and to provide emotional support for his difficult behaviour. A child in these circustances would have qualified for aftercare support under the old CCSP, but from this September will qualify for nothing.
“Or the situation of a 6 year old girl whose mother is trying so hard to make a fresh start in life after years of addiction. Her daughter doesn’t qualify for NCS support, the service offered her a reduced fee at a loss to them, but she couldn’t sustain it after a period of months. That child now has no supports around her.
“Or the situation of the low income family where the mother experienced a stroke, the father works long hours to sustain the family and the children do not qualify for after-school support because the Department deems that there is a parent at home to care for the children.
“We held a public meeting with early years workers two weeks ago which had over thirty in attendance from Sligo, Cavan, Cork, Kilkenny, Wicklow, Monaghan and other counties representing the voiceless children affected. As well as the impact on already disadvantaged children, there is also a major financial implication for providers, some of whom are forced to consider closing some of their services. We already have a major shortage of places in the North inner city and elsewhere in the country. We simply cannot afford any further closures.
“No child should be left behind. I am calling on government to hear the families crying out for better support and a fairer start for their child.”