Founder and Managing Director of Grovelands Childcare, Athlone businesswoman, Regina Bushell, in her capacity as Chairperson of Seas Suas, the representative voice for independent early learning and care providers in Ireland, is advocating further additional financial assistance for the sector following the announcement by the Government of a €75 million stimulus package prior to the reopening of relevant service facilities on June 29.
The suite of measures detailed by the Government in the announced funding model include grants to assist childcare providers with operational and expenditure costs as it is expected that a reduced number of children will return to relevant service providers upon reopening with a Department of Children and Youth Affairs review of such measures to take place in July.
Assessing the detailed Government funding model, Ms. Bushell, stated that the finances afforded towards the childcare and early learning sector was not sufficient, noting that the response to this pertinent crisis continues to be “short-sighted, confusing and lacking in detail”.
“This financial package, while useful, falls short of our expectations. The average creche cares for approximately 40 children. For the period of this funding package, occupancy levels will fall to as low as 10 children with only one in four returning. With demand down and costs significantly up for at least six months, this funding will quickly run out.
“We recognise fully that any support is better than none and is to be welcomed. The extension of the wage subsidy makes a difference but like the package overall, it has a hard stop of the end August.
“This crisis runs deep and long. There continues to be a lack of understanding as to the true nature of the crisis in childcare. The lack of a cross-Government response remains,” Ms. Bushell asserted.
Ms. Bushell expressed her vast concern that childcare and early learning facilities may not be able to sustain a business presence as demand for the service decreases but operational costs remain a constant.
“The crisis in childcare is not about reopening, it is about staying open. Staying open over the next six months when demand is down and costs are up is the challenge.
“The practicality of capital supports for works that may have to be completed in 10 days are a concern. There also needs to be clarity as to how much of this aspect of the package includes existing revenues previously announced and what any related terms may include.
“The Minister refers to both grants and contracts to provide support to the sector, and again, there has been no consultation with childcare providers on the detail of any new contract.
“As the representative voice for independent early learning and childcare providers in Ireland, Seas Suas recently presented a detailed submission to both the Departments of Children and Youth Affairs and Public Expenditure and Reform, which estimated that support of €130 million over six months to the end of this year is required. We have published this submission on our website as a contribution to this debate.
“The complex impact of COVID-19 on childcare is not an easy one to resolve. Until we think beyond days, root decisions in financial realities, and grasp how key childcare is to wider economic recovery, this crisis will continue,” Ms. Bushell emphasised.