THERE has been a mixed reaction to the announcement of additional funding for childcare services in the Lucan area.
It was announced last week that services in Brittas, Newcastle, Rathcoole, Saggart, Lucan, Clondalkin and Palmerstown are to receive more than €116,000 in extra funding this year.
The funding will be used to provide more than new childcare places, maintenance and building work as well as outdoor play areas and is available for immediate draw-down by local providers.
Welcoming the news, local TD and Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald said: “I hold the provision of quality, affordable and accessible childcare as a very highest priority; ensuring local children get the very best start in life.
“This financial boost comes at a key moment in Ireland’s move to accessible, affordable quality childcare.
“My Cabinet colleague, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone, said €8.4m in capital funding has been allocated through the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to 683 pre-school providers nationwide – an increase in €4.4m on the amount announced for this programme in March.”
It was also announced that from September there would be a universal subsidy of €1,040 per year for children up to the free pre-school year programme.
There will also be supports of up €7,500 for families on low incomes.
Local childcare providers welcomed these initiatives but said that the level of funding does not go far enough.
Lynn O’Dwyer, a member of Private Early Education Providers and the owner of Sunflowers Childcare in Ballyowen, told The Gazette that she wasn’t able to apply for any of the grants on offer and she felt there was too much emphasis on inspection and not enough on training.
She said: “The bottom line is the Government just isn’t funding childcare to the level it should be.
“We’re bottom of the OECD table in terms of financing childcare and an enormous amount of that funding that is going into childcare is not going in at grassroots level, it’s going in at inspection level.
“It’s not even going in to training staff. They’re trying to improve the quality by inspection, and really that’s not a proven method of improving [the] quality of provision.”
Tina Foster, of Reata Montessori, received a grant of almost €5,000 to improve her outdoor play areas and while she said she was delighted with the grant, she also believed that the childcare sector remains severely underfunded.
She said: “All areas of childcare have been underfunded. Katherine Zappone, I don’t know what she’s thinking but she’s expecting us to run high-quality services on very little funding, and we’re not getting paid enough to run the service.
“Then they can send people out to inspect us and tell us what we’re doing wrong and put us down as non-compliant for stupid things.”
In response to local concerns, Minister for Children Dr Katherine Zappone told The Gazette: “There can be no compromise on child safety. Inspections and training are important to ensure that. My Department supports the training of childcare providers and is the leader on this …
“Having said that, changing the most expensive childcare system in the world into the best was never going to be easy, nor would it happen in one budget …
“[This] is why I am working with the sector to try to secure more funding so we can finally deliver the accessible, affordable, quality childcare system which parents, providers and most importantly children deserve.”