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New National Childcare Scheme fails to recognise importance of supporting after school care for some families

01 May 2021

Following her interaction on Friday with Minister Roderic O’Gorman about the National Childcare scheme, Labour Senator Marie Sherlock said it is clear that the Department of Children fails to recognise the importance of supporting after school care and the needs of school going children outside of school hours. She said this failure is threatening the ability of community childcare services in the Dublin’s north inner city and right across the country to be able to continue in operation.

Senator Sherlock had requested that the Minister for Children come into the Seanad to explain whether he intended to review the new National Childcare Scheme and in particular, take account of the fact that it is excluding many children from some of the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

In the reply from the Minister, it was stated that “where parents are not participating in work or study, they are available to care for children and support their development at home, except where there are exceptional circumstances.”

Senator Sherlock said:

“Unfortunately, the Department does not appear to recognise the range of challenging conditions that some children are growing up in; chaotic households, overcrowding and other very difficult situations”

“The exceptional circumstances appear to be confined to when a family is homeless or subject to TUSLA’s child protection. Even with those circumstances, we know of cases where free access to the National childcare scheme is rashly withdrawn when families are going through traumatic changes in their lives”.

Senator Sherlock continued “At the heart of this issue is that these early years and after school services are not just about minding children, they are a crucial resource in supporting families. We can talk about breaking the cycle and tackling disadvantage, putting NEIC taskforce money in increased security and improving the physical look of the area, but all this is meaningless if we do not go the very start of where it all begins and put in place supports for children in the earliest years of their lives.”

The solution is that early years services and after school services get a form of DEIS status to recognise the conditions they are operating in and to ensure that no disadvantaged family will ever be turned away because of a lack of financial resource.

“Community childcare providers across the inner city and beyond have been relaying to me the awful situations that families now find themselves in. I know of one six year boy whose mother, a lone parent has had numerous mental health difficulties and very poor literacy. The child had fallen behind at school and had started displaying challenging behaviour. But the after school service was helping to catch up and to regulate his behaviour . That child qualified for aftercare support under the old community childcare subvention programme, but from this September, he will qualify for nothing.

"I also know 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 does not qualify for support under the national childcare scheme.  The after school service offered the a reduced fee to the family, even though it was at a loss to the service, but the family could not sustain the payment.  That child now has no supports around her.”

Or the 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. 

The Minister confirmed today that a review of the first year of the National Childcare scheme is taking place. Senator Sherlock concluded, “the outcome of this cannot come quick enough for childcare services and families and we need the Government act to ensure no child is excluded”.