Creche owners criticise delays in roll-out of Covid-19 scheme

Early Childhood Ireland (ECI) seeking urgent update on proposed wage subsidy scheme

Representatives of créche owners have criticised delays in the roll-out of the State’s new childcare subsidy scheme, which will see fees for parents waived during the next three months.

The ambitious plan will also see the Government become responsible for the vast majority of the sector’s wage bill. However, it has also faced criticism from some childcare operators who say it has presented them with pressing cashflow issues and could lead to closures.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, lobby group Early Childhood Ireland (ECI) called for an urgent update on the proposed wage subsidy scheme for the sector. The wage subsidy will see the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) top up the final 30 per cent of wages not covered by the wider Government Covid-19 wage subsidy, up to a level of €38,000 per year.

"Two weeks have passed since the Minister called an urgent meeting of early years stakeholders to brief us about a bespoke wage subsidy scheme for our sector. One week later, a letter from the Minister and a set of frequently asked questions were issued to every childcare provider in the State, and two short updates have followed since," said Frances Byrne, director of policy and advocacy with the group.

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“However, the scheme has yet to be established and this has left both employer and staff facing huge uncertainty as the Easter period begins.”

Créches and other childcare operations which operate on a part-time basis and usually cease operations over Easter will not receive their usual state subsidy funding, as it is suspended during holiday periods. This may leave some créches with a shortfall when it comes to paying wages.

“Because this Scheme has not yet materialised, thousands of workers are now facing Easter with no income for this week or the following week,” Ms Byrne said. “It is critical that the Department of Children and Youth Affairs issues an immediate update with a firm date for the introduction of the Wage Subsidy Childcare Scheme and, in the meantime, provides the necessary funding so that staff can get paid over Easter.”

Separately, the Chief Medical Officer, Tony Houlihan, said on Tuesday evening that the National Public Health Emergency Team is "looking to find a solution" to childcare for frontline workers, which has been an outstanding issue since the closure of childcare settings almost a month ago.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times