Are free preschool places enough to take the pressure off working parents?
Childcare is one of the biggest issues for mothers returning to the workplace – and Ireland has some of the most expensive childcare costs in Europe.
With childcare costing as much as rent or mortgage repayments, it has forced many parents to choose between their careers and their financial stability.
The major expansion of the Early Childhood Care and Education scheme has meant that the number of children taking free pre-school is higher than ever. But does this really help struggling parents?
Like many children, my son received a free pre-school place but with his class only running from 9am-11am, it didn’t change my need for childcare.
This is the position a lot of Irish parents are finding themselves in, with government funding initiatives only meeting them halfway.
Some critics have suggested that increasing the number of pre-schools and creches would drive down the prices, but some parents are critical of this idea.
Many mums and dads feel that having a free breakfast club and after-school clubs would be a huge help – and I have to agree with them.
It would stop school-age children from having to attend costly creches, and give parents peace of mind.
Some schools have implemented these clubs, but they are still in the minority and a lot of them are off-site – meaning there still needs to be a caregiver present to transfer the child from their school to the after-school club.
My son used to attend an after-school program while I was at work but the membership was costing us hundreds every month so we had to stop sending him.
I cannot fault the facility itself because their well-trained staff deserve the wages they make – the fault lies with our government and the lack of empathy for working parents.
My daughter is about to turn two and I would love to be able to send her to daycare so she can socialise with other children but it would cost more to put her in childcare for a month than my monthly mortgage payment.
It gives me serious 'mammy guilt' not being able to send her to any sort of childcare but with our current financial situation, it's just not an affordable option.
Recently, a new incentive was brought in which saw fathers receive two weeks paternity leave for the first time ever.
Compared to countries like Germany though, where a father can expect several months off after the birth of his child, it still doesn’t even begin to take the pressure off working parents.
With the cost of living climbing, especially in the larger cities, will the government finally take notice and subsidise the cost of childcare or will more and more parents find themselves forced out of their jobs?