Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Questions (601)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

601. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if as part of her intention to review all the childcare support programmes and other proposals she will consider a proposal to have child care costs taken from gross rather than net pay of a parent or parents in an effort to provide the maximum benefit to parents while maintaining availability of high-quality child care supports; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5396/14]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

It appears that the Deputy is proposing the introduction of tax relief for parents to help them meet the cost of childcare.

Tax incentives for working parents who incur childcare costs were previously proposed, and the issue of tax allowances or credits was considered prior to the introduction of the targeted childcare supports which are now in place. A number of issues emerged at that time which did not favour the introduction of childcare tax relief. For example, this approach would not support parents working in the home and could therefore, as opposed to the targeted approach, be seen by some as discriminatory. Also these reliefs would favour the better paid and those on the minimum wage or in part time work or student parents would not be in a position to benefit to the same extent as higher income families. Many parents use childminders or relatives to meet their childcare needs and might not be in a position to obtain receipts making it impossible for them to establish their entitlement to such benefit.

I am very much aware of the relatively high cost of childcare in this country and of the difficulties that this presents, particularly where both parents are in employment outside of the home. To help address the issue, funding of €260 million is provided annually by my Department to support a number of targeted childcare support programmes that assist parents in accessing quality and affordable childcare.

For example, the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) programme provides funding to community-based childcare services to enable them to provide childcare at reduced rates to parents in receipt of social welfare payments or parents in employment who are on low or relatively modest incomes. My Department also implements the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme which provides one free pre-school year to all eligible children before they commence primary school.

I am happy to advise the Deputy that a review of the childcare support programmes will be undertaken by my Department in the coming year with a view to identifying areas where they could be enhanced and improved to ensure the best use of the investment which is currently being made in this area. All proposals relating to childcare supports will be considered as part of this review.