Time to explore real childcare options that work

With empty schools and halls all over the country we are failing to capitalise on a most valuable resource.

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has today (Thursday) said that we must look at real, affordable and proven ways of providing childcare, in light of proposed changes to the lone parent payments. Deputy Mitchell O’Connor was speaking following comments made by the Social Protection Minister, Joan Burton, in the Dáil last night on the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill.

“As a former school principal, I have extensive experience identifying ways of providing childcare that is both reliable and affordable. In my former school, we addressed this issue by employing qualified carers to provide after school care at reasonable rates.

“Parents were charged a small fee per hour for their children to be taken care of after school and within the school setting. A reduced rate was charged to disadvantaged pupils or those who demonstrated a difficulty in paying.

“The money raised from this initiative was used to pay back a loan that the school had taken out for renovations, independent of the Department of Education. The money that was raised enabled the school to easily cover the loan repayments, while providing a valuable service to parents and their children. If an initiative such as this was to be adopted in schools throughout the country, considering that the loan element would be removed, minimal charges could be imposed to cover the cost of employing the supervisors.

“We have empty school halls and gymnasiums the length and breadth of the country that could be used to provide after school care by professionals. These premises are available at very little cost and failing to use them, when there is obviously a need, is failing to tap into a hugely valuable resource. The taxpayer has funded these schools so it makes that they are used to the benefit of local communities.

“Our social welfare system needs to be overhauled and refocused in favour of those who are most in need of payment. In my experience, this system of childcare provision works very well for parents, children and, indeed, the school. I believe that all workable options must be explored to ensure that the social welfare system continues to provide for our people and that our children are cared for in the most suitable and affordable setting. ”

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