Parents face childcare chaos as providers plan two-day closures in bid to new government force deal

Parents are facing childcare chaos as some providers are planning two days of closures next month to try and broker a new government funding deal.

laine Dunne of the Federation of Early Childhood Providers, said the small and medium-sized services will shut on November 11 and 25.

She said the move is to “take a stand for small providers who are forced to close their doors”, despite the announcement of €1bn government investment in the sector.

The providers’ group claims state grants for pre-school services have not increased enough while inflation has risen dramatically.

They also object to a government condition that they freeze fees to access new “core funding” payments.

“In the last week and a half, we lost four services in rural Ireland,” said Ms. Dunne. “We’re taking a stand. We knew there were going to be closures. Services are running at a massive loss.

“The big problem is we are not getting what the government said we would get. The bigger services are doing really well out of this and the small fish in the pond are being drowned out.

“We are calling on Minister O’Gorman to sit down around the table and negotiate a deal. There will be closures each month until something is done.”

She said she received an email from a provider who had to borrow from her 73-year-old mother to pay staff.

Department of Children figures show 91pc of providers have signed up to the new government core funding scheme that means fees must remain static.

A spokesperson said well over 4,000 early learning and care and school age childcare providers are taking part and this continues to increase.

“This is a tremendous level of uptake and will make a positive impact for parents and children using these services through investment in quality and in affordability with more funding for staff and a commitment not to increase fees,” said the spokesperson.

The spokesperson said the number of reported closures of early learning and care services and newly-opened services from January to the end of August this year is “broadly in line with other years”.

A 25pc reduction in childcare fees will not apply to all parents next year

At the end of August, there were 113 closures and 33 new registrations of services for 2022, he said.

This compares with 106 closures and 44 new registrations in the same period last year, 130 closures and 53 new registrations in 2020, and 133 closures and 56 new registrations in 2019.

Darragh Whelan, director of Childhood Services Ireland, said the €1bn investment in childcare is a huge step forward.

However, he said a lot of services are not eligible for capital funding because they are based in private homes.

He said the government should make this available for investment in extra rooms due to a chronic shortage of childcare for the under-threes.

Mr Whelan said property developers should be obliged to build childcare facilities if they are building a large number of homes.

Meanwhile, a 25pc reduction in childcare fees will not apply to all parents next year.

An average reduction of 25% was announced in the budget.

The level of reduction will depend on a variety of factors including the subsidy they receive and the provider’s fees.

From January 2, all families paying for registered childcare are set to receive a National Childcare Scheme subsidy of at least €1.40 an hour.

The subsidy that is not means-tested is currently set at 50c per hour.”

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