I'm pleased that the Irish Iona Institute is taking up this issue. The point made in the press release is obvious and should be stressed: parents who do not want to use creches for their children should not be forced to pay for them. I would add that very often there is a financial sacrifice in not taking that option: parents who make that sacrifice for the sake of giving their children the best start in life should NOT be punished. What sort of Government would do that? Actually, it is constantly being touted as a progressive policy, in the UK as well as in Ireland.
The UK's 'Family and Youth Concern' (Family Eduction Trust) responded a UK Government consultation on child care in 2005 in the same vein: you can read it here, it cites studies showing that creches lead to poorer outcomes for children.
Also not to be swept under the carpet are the repeated horror stories of mistreatment of children at creches. The Iona Institute mentions this in relation to an Irish TV investigation; other stories have more than once appeared in UK papers.
From the Iona Institute
Child-care policy must respect parental choice and not favour creches over home
May 29, 2013 – A national debate is underway about the quality and supervision of our crèches following the airing of a Prime Time documentary last night revealing very disturbing mistreatment of young children by some crèche workers.
It is vital that any policy changes that may result from this debate properly respect the choices parents actually want to make in respect of how their young children are cared for during the day and not favour crèches over home.
It should not be assumed that all parents want to place their children in crèches for many hours each day no matter how well-funded and high quality those crèches are.
If we move towards a very expensive system of State-funded crèches it will effectively mean that parents who wish to look after their young children at home will end up subsidising parents who either want to or have to place them in crèches. This would be unfair.
Commenting on the matter, Breda O’Brien of The Iona Institute said: “Last night’s very disturbing Prime Time programme highlighted the need for young children to receive quality, loving care wherever they may be. What is clearly needed is proper supervision of our crèches and proper follow-up where failings have been uncovered.”
She continued: “.However, we should not move towards a universal system of third-party childcare as exists in some other countries. In those countries, parents have little choice but to put their children in creches for hours every day. This is because taxes become so high as a result of subsidising childcare, it is very difficult for a couple to live on one income and look after their children at home even when they wish to. This effectively removes parental choice.”
Ms O’Brien concluded: “Therefore we must properly supervise childcare, including ensuring fair rates of pay, but also support the choices parents want to make in order to care for their children, to the best of our ability and within the limits of our resources.”