Childcare scheme shortfalls

 

Sir, – Wednesday, November 20th was universal children’s day and Minister for Children Katherine Zappone launched the National Childcare Scheme (NCS) without a big fuss. Why? Is it because it is another scheme to add to the work of the already stressed and tired childcare workforce?

Childcare teams across the country welcome the logic of this scheme in supporting parents with the cost of childcare, but feel they are doing the Government’s work and the system is not fully ready yet. Childcare workers are tired, frustrated, overworked and underpaid, never mind their professionalism constantly disrespected and challenged.

There are many issues ongoing with the other scheme, the Early Childhood and Education scheme (ECCE), or as the Minister now deems it ELC, Early Learning and Care, removing the word education. Many providers are owed funding since last September by Pobal, which administers these schemes yet they are still required to have paid their tax bill by the end of October, their utility bills and the wages of their staff teams as well as running their business.

The funding amounts provide for unsustainability in the sector and this new NCS will be no different with the contract requirements. Are these contracts even legal?

There also appears to be a lack of knowledgeable staff employed by Pobal in relation to the schemes.

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, requires a lot of legislative measures and policy in place, and rightly so! As a result of television programmes which have outed bad practices, they are demanding that all services re-register before 31st December 2019 in order to keep their funding in January.

Last Monday we received an email saying the closing date is now December 12th. Is this so Pobal don’t have to work over Christmas, processing the thousands of re-registration documentation? Will they meet their deadlines or yet again will service providers be waiting for their funding come January? The email was quite forceful and has left a lot of providers in fear for their jobs and the children in their care having funding to attend after Christmas.

At the heart of all this red tape, are the most important people, the children. They, unfortunately, are forgotten. The Government does not have their best interests at heart. What is important to the Government is, having their parents out working and investing in the economy. The Government is supporting parents by reducing costs of childcare. But at what and whose cost?

Parents should be concerned. Will your childcare service be reopening in January? Will it be a registered service? Will you be returning to a full payment system while Pobal catch up with re-registrations?

My wish is for children to have environments where they are loved, valued, respected and cared for.

It is also what I wish for childcare providers and workers. – Yours, etc,

MAG COOGAN,

ECCE provider,

The ABC Club,

Dunboyne,

Co Meath.