A Dublin Mid-West Sinn Féin Councillor has expressed alarm at the inadequate level of childcare services to meet the needs of families in rapidly expanding parts of the constituency.
Councillor Derren Ó Brádaigh said “Whilst population continues to grow amid ongoing development in West Lucan, we are not seeing the arrival of essential childcare services to meet demand in real time. I see childcare services as a public service for both children and parents. When it works, a State’s childcare system can be a huge employer; help with health and mental development of our smallest children; facilitate parents, especially women, to access the workforce and be a positive component of economic growth.
“We know that South Dublin’s population grew above the national average in both the 2016 and 2022 census counts and is now at 300,000, with close to 60,000 people in Lucan alone. We also know that national and regional plans project a further 50,000 people to live in South Dublin by 2031, and a significant number of these families will take up residency within the strategic development zones of Adamstown and Clonburris.
“Accessible and affordable childcare is a huge issue in many parts of Ireland but has become particularly acute in Lucan now. The limited number of creche facilities are in most instances akin to the cost of a second mortgage, without any availability, even if parents can afford them. At a local area committee meeting last year, I learned that the community team in South Dublin County Council have recently consulted with their planning colleagues to confirm the model used for creche planning. The standards for creches are set out within Childcare Facilities Guidelines for Planning Authorities June 2001 published by the Department. These standards are reflected in the County Development Plan and seek one childcare facility with a minimum of 20 places for each 75 units for new residential development. The reality on the ground and in the community falls far short of anything even near this criterion.
“It is vital that we begin to see new public creche facilities in tandem with the arrival of any further development, that so many young ordinary working parents and families in Lucan now so badly need. Ultimately, I believe we need to invest considerably more in childcare, and early years learning needs to become an essential public service – we should be looking at pre-school and early education being free along the same model as primary school, and when secondary school moved this way in the 1960’s. Our children are the next generation and represent the future. It is up to us just what kind of society we wish to see – one restricted by poor services, accessibility and for only those that can afford, or one that will enable entire families to flourish and give back.”