“The Government has confirmed its commitment to investment in childcare, to ensure that we increase affordability, quality and accessibility for parents and children across Ireland. This is a real and meaningful first step, that will have both social and economic returns far into the future.
“It is imperative that we have high quality childcare available to every child. The Budget provides a balanced package of measures for children and families.
“Funding of €15 million has been provided which will enable children with disabilities to fully participate and reap the benefits of quality pre-school care and education.
“I welcome this funding, as having worked closely with the Meath Fight for the Future Campaign, I have seen and understand how much this funding will help to make attending mainstream school possible for many children, assessing their specific needs and requirements.
“Among the range of measures in Budget 2016, aimed at helping hard working parents are:
· An extension of the free pre-school year, meaning free pre-school for all children from age 3 to primary school (there will be three windows for parents to enrol their children in the scheme – September, January and April)
· Over €15m will be used to make pre-school more accessible for children who special needs
· Two weeks of new paid paternal leave, which will kick in for fathers from next September
· A €5 increase in child benefit, to €140 per child per month
· An extension of the Community Childcare Subvention Programme, which offers low income parents, reduced rates. 5,000 extra childcare places through private and community providers this year and 8,000 next year
· A €3 million capital fund will support childcare providers to develop after-school services
· There will also be a number of measures to improve the quality of childcare provision, including an audit of all childcare, increased inspections and investment in training for childcare workers.
“In addition to these childcare measures families will also benefit from a reduction in class sizes in primary school to 27 pupils to 1 teacher (the lowest level they have ever been), 2260 additional primary and post-primary teachers in 2016 and an extension of free GP care to all children under 12.
“Fine Gael is prioritising job creation, because more jobs mean less tax for people already working and more revenue to provide better services. Government action to help create an accessible and affordable childcare system is vital for people to be given the opportunity to return to the workforce.
“The last few budgets have been hard, but they have made it possible for Ireland to exit the bailout, reduce our debts, and move into a real recovery. The top priority of this year’s budget is to keep that recovery going, while providing relief and better services for the Irish people.”