State subsidies and childcare workers

 

Sir, – As an early years education and childcare provider for the last 17 years, I must comment on “Childcare workers laid off by employers who still had State subsidies” (News, April 2nd).

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs gave the early years sector no warning that our services were to be closed for any period of time. No time to prepare our children, our staff, and parents for what was to come. We learned at the same time as the general public – 11:30am on March 12th. Our colleagues in the primary and secondary education sector had been warned and had a chance to prepare their staff, reassure them they would still be paid, and answer questions arising.

Thus early years providers had to make a decision immediately, having been given no information whatsoever. Many of these services are funded up to 80 per cent or more by parental fees. If these fees had not already been paid in advance, how in all reality were they likely to be paid once the service was closed? Many providers took the best decision with the information they had at the time and put staff on short-term layoff until more information was available.

Many services, mine included, who had been paid parental fees for the month took the decision to keep staff employed for March and pay them in full. The parents in my service had previously agreed to this type of arrangement via our policies and procedures put in place should such a short-term emergency arise.

The Department of Children in their documentation referred to in the article have misled many by their assertion that “most services receive 75 per cent of funding from the State”. This is untrue and many services receive the largest proportion of their funding from parents’ fees. The State portion of funding in many cases will not cover overheads, never mind staff wages, which in some settings can account for 70 per cent to 75 per cent of turnover.

I felt this was an unfair representation – yet again – of the early years sector which is trying hard to catch up and keep up with the current situation, to keep hold of valuable staff assets and property assets, and in the midst of this, advocate for children with additional needs, to provide resources for young children whose routines have been completely lost, and to volunteer wherever possible to support frontline staff with their childcare issues. I would appreciate a more balanced approach when discussing the early years sector in future, and to give our sector the chance to answer such allegations before going to press. – Yours, etc,

LYNN O’DWYER,

Owner,

Sunflowers Childcare,

Lucan, Co Dublin.