This week, Waterford Chamber will detail its pre-Budget recommendations for making childcare affordable and for refocusing the National Training Fund (NTF) to up-skill those currently in employment and allow businesses to remain competitive.
Proper access to affordable childcare services has positive implications for female labour market participation, the social well-being of children, the gender-pay gap, and Government revenues due to higher labour participation rates and reduced social problems. Waterford Chamber therefore recommends Government to:
- Provide direct Government subsidies to the providers of child and afterschool care in the form of capitation grants.
- Make subsidies conditional upon educational quality standards being met.
- Vary the level of the grant per child in accordance with parents’ income to ensure that services become affordable for low-income households.
Although we recognise that a complete reform of the child and afterschool care sector will take time and a large scale investment, we suggest that Government in the short term build on the existing ECCE model by extending it to 48 weeks and expand the scheme to cover a second year.
Furthermore, we suggest that the level of funding for the ECCE scheme should be increased by €30 per child per week to allow for the recruitment and retention of qualified staff. Current funding levels are insufficient to cover the cost of high-quality childcare which has caused some service providers to operate at a loss and may ultimately force some providers out of business.
Given the high rates of unemployment facing the country over the past number of years, it was appropriate that the majority of the National Training Fund (NTF) was directed towards training for the unemployed. While it is right and proper that some of the funding still is used to train the unemployed, we believe it is time to refocus the NTF now that unemployment levels have fallen.
Waterford Chamber advocates that a commitment be made to ensure that the majority of funding from the NTF is committed to up-skilling those within companies to ensure companies in Ireland are developing the skills necessary to expand, grow and compete internationally. This measure would have no impact on Exchequer funding and would support the competitiveness of our enterprises.
Next week, Waterford Chamber will detail its recommendations for supporting efficiency in our public service.