Childhood Services Ireland has written to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs today, to appeal for assistance in keeping childcare services open for essential workers and vulnerable children.
According to the trade association, it will be difficult for many providers to stay open for smaller numbers, with services reporting that they will be operating at a loss.
Commenting on the letter to the Minister, Childhood Services Ireland’s Director, Darragh Whelan, said: “We wrote to the Minister to point out that the childcare sector in Ireland is committed to playing its part in this national emergency.
“Providing safe childcare services to our nurses, doctors and other frontline and essential workers is critical in keeping our health service running and our providers are ready and willing to play their part, but they need urgent assistance from Minister O’Gorman and his Department to do this.’’
“While we wholeheartedly welcome the Government’s decision to keep childcare open for the children of frontline and essential workers and vulnerable children, this will mean hugely reduced occupancy, and therefore hugely reduced income for providers.
“This is simply unsustainable and will place a significant financial burden on providers after an extremely difficult year. If additional funding is not available, our fear is that the childcare sector will not be able to remain open.’’
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This comes following a statement issued on Wednesday by the Department of Children, where Minister Roderic O’Gorman appealed for childcare providers to suspend or refund fees paid by parents who can’t avail of their services in January.
In response to this announcement, Karen Clince, chief executive of Tigers Childcare and chairperson of Fingal County Childcare Committee, said: “This request is totally unviable and shows a Minister that is out of touch with the childcare industry.
“While we don’t believe parents should pay for a service they can’t avail of, childcare providers can’t be expected to remain open for essential workers without financial support from the state to cover the loss of the very fees we need to operate.
“If the government can’t support us to meet our running costs, we will be forced to make the difficult decision to close until things return to normal.
“We are being expected to keep on 100 per cent of staff with average occupancies of 25 per cent across our 12 centres. Even with programme fees like ECCE, which account for only 20 per cent of income for private providers, and the employee wage subsidy scheme, we will be unable to make ends meet.
“We always operated under an ethos of supporting the children we care for, their families, community and wider government objectives.
“Minister O’Gorman is making these decisions without any consultation with childcare providers and we would call on him to engage with those at the coalface to find a workable solution for all.”