Childcare for low-income families ‘priority’, says Katherine Zappone

Subsidised childcare for low-income families must be prioritised in the budget to help the more than 136,000 children living in poverty, said Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone.

The Independent minister emphasised that she wants to extend benefits to the so-called ‘squeezed middle’, but this is dependent on resources allocated to her in the budget and beyond.

Fine Gael ministers and backbenchers fear that State-funded childcare supports only going to lower income families in the budget could anger other families on higher incomes.

Ms Zappone met Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Paschal Donohoe about the impasse this week, as all sides attempt to agree a compromise for the budget.

The exact nature of subsidised childcare provision in the budget remains unknown. A suggested threshold of €47,000 in joint income per family for those who benefit has worried Fine Gael backbenchers.

“It must spread out to others too, you have middle-income earners who are really in need of getting help for their childcare costs,” one Fine Gael TD told the Irish Examiner.

Mr Noonan told the Dáil this week that he has made no mention of any subsidies for childcare being included in the October 11 budget.

Ms Zappone made no apologies for wanting to help lower income families with childcare costs first.

“One of the key aspects of what I want to do though, starting in 2017, is to begin a new more effective way to target families, especially on low income, in terms of subsidies,” she said yesterday.

“But that’s part of the package, I would hope to be also able to increase support for children in every family but as I have said before, that is dependent on the resources that are given to me. I make no apology to focus some of my initial efforts in relation to a new scheme to children from low income families.

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