Press Release: Scandinavian Childcare: Making it Happen

04 Mar 2013 in Press Releases, Advocacy, Featured

Press Release: Scandinavian Childcare: Making it Happen

Dublin, 4 March 2013 – Some parents in Ireland are struggling to pay household bills because of the high cost of childcare and afterschool care. In a survey conducted by Barnardos, the National Women’s Council of Ireland, OPEN and Start Strong, many parents said that childcare costs stopped them going on holiday or buying treats for their children while others said that costs actually prevented them from taking up employment or moving from part-time to full-time work. The four organisations are calling on the Government to prioritise the development of quality, subsidised childcare and afterschool care for all children to support their development and remove barriers to work for parents.

The four organisations said that the Scandinavian model had been much talked about in recent years but plans to start moving Ireland towards such a model continued to be short-sighted and piecemeal. They said that meaningful change requires a properly trained workforce in services with appropriate facilities that are regularly inspected, regulation for childminders and better family leave and flexible work practices to give parents more choice in balancing family and work life. Greater flexibility is also needed in the social welfare system to support parents in low paid and part-time work.

Speaking at the “Scandinavian Childcare: Making It Happen” seminar today, Professor Tine Rostgaard of Aalborg University in Denmark, said: “The Nordic countries have been held up as a model for childcare around the world. The key reasons these services have been successful is that they take a universal approach to services, they are based on the integration of care and education and have full time care options. There are also options for parents in terms of their ability to pay and whether they want to take parental leave or avail of centre based or childminding services.”

“Most crucially, quality is prioritised in all service settings. Quality really matters. Longitudinal studies in Denmark have proven that high staff:child ratios in early years services lead to better cognitive development at 9th grade. In the Nordic States it has been about recognising the importance of investing in care for the youngest children while encouraging greater gender equality for women and men in relation to employment and parenting.”

Dr Micheál Collins, Senior Research Officer at the Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI) stated that:  “Investing in our children from a very early age makes both social and economic sense. Even the most conservative of estimates show that the long-run return to the State on this spending provides a benefit of €4 for every €1 spent. There are few such excellent investments available to us as a society.”

Barnardos, the National Women’s Council of Ireland, OPEN and Start Strong said that the State has been slow to engage in real change in this area and that the system continues to fail children and parents:

“What our survey proves is that parents across Ireland want better quality services for children at a more affordable price for them. Parents want a subsidised system that’s based on ability to pay and more flexible working conditions that will help them to meet their parenting responsibilities while staying in work.”

“If the Government is serious about giving all children the best start in life and about getting parents back to work, then we need to prioritise the move towards Scandinavian type childcare. Childhood is the most important period in an individual’s life; giving children the strongest foundation possible creates enormous potential for them and our society.”