Childcare providers protest in Dublin over funding

Childcare workers protesting outside Ireland’s parliament say they have been “ignored” for funding at a time when costs are rising because of inflation.

Representatives from Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) and daycare services in Dublin came out to clarify their opposition to fee limits.

According to a leader in the sector, many services are facing “real financial difficulty” due to high inflation and historically low funding.

Some parents, grandparents and children along with childcare providers were in protest on Wednesday.

Several TDs, including the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderick O’Gorman, went out to meet the protesters.

The government is looking at options to reduce the cost of childcare, including examining whether to increase the number of free hours available under the ECCE scheme.

It offers free pre-school childcare for children over the age of two years and eight months, three hours a day, five days a week in the school year.

But ECCE providers argue that they cannot charge last year’s 2.2% inflation rate, given that inflation has now gone far beyond this figure.

The Federation of Early Childhood Providers (FECP) said recent research among pre-school providers indicated that 260 may have to close their doors next autumn.

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Childcare providers said they feel they are overlooked when it comes to funding (Niel Carson/PA)

Ellen Dunne, the organization’s president, said: “ECCE services represent a third of all childcare providers and were a vulnerable area even before COVID.

“Now, in the context of inflation, historically low funding, staffing and regulatory pressure, many services are in real financial difficulty.”

He said that the government should now take action to stop the bandh.

She said: “Service closures are not easily reversed, so the government now needs to engage on the problem, and recognize the research and analysis (1,100 childcare providers participated in our recent survey) in support of a sustainable childcare sector. Gave.”

Childcare services were “ignored” when it comes to funding, one protester said, despite inflation affecting their cost.

Carolyn Sally told the PA news agency: “We’ve taken the time to be here today for proper core funding.

“Many ECCE services have been overlooked in funding.”

She said: “Our fees are also rising, inflation is affecting us too, but we have been overlooked in core funding, so I am here today for fair core funding.”

Among the measures being called by the protesters is a 100 euro per child subsidy on the ECCE scheme, which they say is needed “to cover the actual cost of what is currently subsidized by the childcare owner”.

Before the protest, Taniste Leo Varadkar said the government wanted to “significantly reduce” childcare fees for parents as well as address rising costs for those working in the sector.

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Taniste Leo Varadkar said the government wants to see childcare fees significantly lower for parents (Damien Storan/PA)

Mr Varadkar told RTE’s Morning Ireland programme: “What we have done in recent years is a lot of additional state funding and state investment in childcare and early childhood education, especially during the pandemic period.

“What we want are three things. High standard for kids. Yes, terms and conditions of better pay for employees. We have something called an Employers Regulation Order that’s being negotiated at the moment, which will do that.

“And then especially next year or even this year if possible, but maybe next year: much lower fees for parents.”

He suggested that most of the extra money in next year’s budget would go to parents to reduce fees and the cost of living for those parents in return, and possibly through subsidies rather than tax breaks.

I want to say to people who work in the childcare sector: You know, we accept that you are also facing rising costsLeo Varadkari

But he also acknowledged the rising costs facing childcare staff.

Mr. Varadkar said: “I want to say to people who work in the childcare sector: You know, we accept that you are also facing rising costs. Whether it is rising labor costs, the cost of heating a crche. The cost of energy will be increasing and so will the electricity.

Some additional funding will have to go to help meet those costs, he said.