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Child Poverty Unit must tackle the lack of early years places in Dublin's North Inner City

15 February 2023

  • One-in-four children in Dublin’s North-East Inner City cannot access a pre-school space 
  • Lack of affordable space and failure of joined-up thinking across Government departments 

Senator Marie Sherlock has today (Wednesday, 15th February) written to an Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD, to call on him to place the alarming shortage of early years places in Dublin north inner city firmly on the agenda in his new Child Poverty Unit.  

Welcoming the establishment of the unit, Senator Sherlock said:  

“There is no single fix to the poverty and the deprivation experienced by almost one in five children in this country. Even in 2021, 18% of children experienced deprivation and that is before the cost of living crisis that is now crippling so many low income households. The solutions lie with tackling long term joblessness among lone parents and those with a disability, it means stamping out chronic low and exploitative pay, it’s about ensuring affordable childcare is available and most importantly the ready supply of stable secure housing.” 

“The Child Poverty unit will fail in its mission unless it tackles these issues and a starting point for the Unit must be that at the very least children get the services they are entitled to. It is scandalous that in Dublin’s north east inner city, one in four children there cannot access a free pre school place”

“If we are in any way serious about breaking the cycle of deprivation, combatting inter-generational poverty, and giving children the best possible chance to thrive in life, then we simply must get the early years piece right in the North Inner City.  

"In her letter to the Taoiseach, Senator Sherlock referenced a shocking piece of research undertaken by Young People at Risk – North Inner City, which found that at least one in four children in the North-East Inner City are now unable to access their right to a free preschool space.  YPAR is an interagency network of statutory, voluntary and community projects working to meet the needs of young people and families at risk through a collaborative and coordinated approach.

Commenting on the issue of the lack of early years education spaces in central Dublin, Sherlock said:  

“Through my work with childcare groups and parents in the area, it is clear that current childcare shortages are being driven by a lack of appropriate, available and affordable space within the city. It is thoroughly alarming that any child would not be able to access their entitlement to a free preschool place – much less one in four children in the North East Inner City. The loss of these places is due to many factors, including the price of land, the lack of foresight in constructing sufficient purpose-built early years spaces, and most importantly, the lack of joined-up thinking between the Department of Education and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.  

“Indeed, these problems have not been confined to the North East Inner City. Last summer we had a situation in Stoneybatter where the area lost 55 pre-school places due to a complete lack of proper collaboration between the Departments. Neither of the affected pre-schools has been able to find alternative accommodation, and their combined 55 pre-school spaces remain lost.” 

Senator Sherlock continued: 

“The Labour Party has raised these issues continuously in Seanad Éireann and the Dáil, but while the Government is quick to point to its achievements, it has failed to meet the specific challenges facing childcare providers within central Dublin. I have therefore written to An Taoiseach directly to call for the urgent prioritisation of investment via the National Development Plan into funding the early years sector in the North Inner City.  

“State investment to increase the availability of childcare would be an essential lifeline to service providers, parents and above all to the children most at risk of poverty and deprivation in the North Inner City.”