Funding threat to childcare services Creche funding

 

Community childcare services in Ireland could collapse with the loss of thousands of childcare places if Government funding plans are not changed, it has been claimed.

New funding arrangements for community childcare facilities are due to come into operation in July next year.

The Irish Childcare Policy Network (ICPN) has warned that proposals to replace the present staffing grant with a subvention grant for parents on low incomes will have a "disastrous" effect on services.

The network represents community-based and not-for-profit childcare facilities, representing more than half of the 4,500 regulated childcare services in the State and about 100,000 children. Just under 850 childcare facilities are currently in receipt of a staffing grant - representing about 40,000 children nationwide.

The Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS) is due to replace the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme which has operated since 2000, and provides staffing grants for facilities.

Only parents in receipt of social welfare payments, engaged in training programmes such as the community employment programme or those on Family Income Supplement will be eligible to have the costs of their childcare subsidised under the CCSS. The subsidies will range from €30 to €80 a day.

Denise McCormilla, the chairperson of ICPN, said the staffing grant system allowed childcare facilities to guarantee employment and plan for the future. The new arrangements will bring such a level of uncertainty that parents who make up voluntary management committees to run such facilities will walk away, she said.

She also said that it would ghettoise such facilities because many low and middle-income families will not be able to afford the increased fees to make up the loss in Government grants.

"What we're hearing all around the country is that there will be a collapse in community childcare services. There will also be a decline in regulated childcare services."

Labour TD Willie Penrose, who is the director of a childcare facility in Ballynacargy, Co Westmeath, with 55 children in it, said the scheme as proposed could see its closure.

"If we lose our staffing grant, we could go down to as little as 15 to 20 children and then we would be seriously looking at the viability of the whole operation. The rug will be pulled from under operations like ours if this gets the go-ahead. The Minister [Minister of State with responsibility for Children Brendan Smith] will have to look at this again."

A statement from the Minister for Children's office said the Government will monitor childcare facilities between now and next July and adjustments will be made if "appropriate".

The statement said the subvention scheme will increase Government spending on childcare by 16 per cent and is designed to help disadvantaged parents and "not to subsidise the costs of parents on higher income". It also said that increases in child benefit and the Early Childcare Supplement is a universal benefit to parents to support them with childcare costs.

Community facility providing pre-school daycare and after-school services in Monaghan town for 120 children:
Staffing grant €100,000
Subvention grant €75,000
Rural pre-school in Co Cavan with 20 children:
Staffing grant €75,000
Subvention grant €65,000