Reports suggest Zappone excluded from Budget debates

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According to todays Irish Times there is a reported Cabinet rift over childcare costs with local TD and Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone apparently left out of Budget discussions after unveiling a plan to subsidise care for low-income families.

The plan was criticised for neglecting the so-called “squeezed middle” and Minister Zappone was not consulted about alternatives.

Zappone had put forward a plan for a subsidised childcare scheme initially aimed at lower income families however, a number of Fine Gael members were unhappy as the proposal did not help those earning between €32,800 and €70,000 and wanted the subsidies to be given to parents across all income groups.

Noirin Hayes, a visiting Professor in the School of Education at Trinity College Dublin, said:

“I think part of the problem is the effort to polarise the parents and the services in this way.
“I don’t think it’s forcing parents to do anything, but what I think it is reflecting is the ad hoc nature of the development of the supports that we have for families with children.”

One of the other options discussed was offering subsidised childcare over a number of years based on the age of the child.

In the first year it would cover children aged up to one before being extended over time to cover those aged up to three when they can begin to avail of free pre-school care.

Sources told the Times that because such a proposal would have income limits  it would not apply to the country’s wealthiest people.

Such a proposal is likely to be more favourable to Fine Gael backbenchers but a spokesman for Ms Zappone last night stressed it had not been discussed with her or the Department of Children.

The spokesman also said Ms Zappone fully intended to stick to her plan.