Childcare providers wait with ‘bated breath’ for funding announcement

Creches and childcare services facing ‘huge costs’ to open as planned on June 29th

Childcare facilities will need to bring in social distancing and other safety measures before reopening on June 29th. Photograph: Thierry Roge/Belga Mag/AFP via Getty

Childcare facilities will need to bring in social distancing and other safety measures before reopening on June 29th. Photograph: Thierry Roge/Belga Mag/AFP via Getty

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Representatives of the childcare sector have warned they will not be able to open on June 29th unless the Government makes a decision this week about funding.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs was anticipated to have made an announcement last Friday about funding creche and childcare services to allow them to return on June 29th.

Department sources say a decision on funding is imminent. It will include reopening grants, the restoration of some subsidy funding and capital grants to assist with social distancing, such as wall dividers and perspex tables. Childcare sector sources are also hopeful of an extension of the State’s sector-specific wage subsidy scheme.

The aim is to have the sector up and running for a full return to work in late July and early August.

A spokesman for the department said: “The Department of Children and Youth Affairs is currently finalising details of the supports that will be available for centre-based services and registered childminders that reopen on June 29th, full details will be announced in the coming days.”

Association of Childhood Professionals (ACP) chairwoman Marian Quinn said childcare providers are waiting with “bated breath” for the announcement.

She said time is running out if a return to childcare facilities is to be allowed on June 29th.

“If the announcement is not this week, the 29th would not be manageable. At the end of the week it is only two full weeks before decisions are made.”

Frances Byrne, director of policy and advocacy at Early Childhood Ireland, which represents 3,800 childcare members nationwide, said childcare facilities are facing “huge costs to restructure their premises and business models and to ensure their staff are kept firmly employed”.

The Government can “act now to save the childcare sector, and in turn support other sectors in our economy”, she said.

“A well-functioning childcare sector feeds into the competitiveness of our economy, influencing labour market participation rates and parents’ career choices.

“It also feeds into ensuring we live in a decent, equitable society, where all children benefit from high-quality early years care and education.”

Growing bills

Elaine Dunne, owner of the Treehouse Montessori in Kilternan, Co Dublin, said she has been unemployed for the last 10 weeks and her fixed outgoings, such as rent and insurance, are €10,000 a month.

“As soon as I open my door on the 29th, I go back to all of my bills,” she said.

“We are looking for sustainability to help us to pay for the changes we need to make within our service.

“We need to know that when we open our doors, that all our overheads are covered. That’s the big thing. Parents have to build up a confidence with the sector that we can open up.

“We can be very confident that we will do everything that is possible for the health, safety and well-being of the children, but we can’t guarantee, that Covid-19 will not come into our service because nobody can give that guarantee.”

Siobhán Geissel, the manager of the Kidz Akademy Creche and Preschool in Kilcullen, Co Kildare, said she expects half of the 100 children attending the facility to return at the end of June.

She said she has been unable to tell parents what the fees will be for their children without confirmation from the Government as to what funding they intend to provide.

She believes Government support will be essential for the sector to be sustainable during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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