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05th Apr 2022

Childcare Services may close as providers reject New Core Funding Model

Melissa Carton

“Over one third of providers committed to rejecting the new core funding model.”

Thousands of parents across Ireland could face an autumn without childcare, as Early Childcare and Education (ECCE) service providers face closure, they say, as a result of a new Government proposal for Core Funding supports, due to come into play on September 1st next.

The Federation of Early Childcare Providers (FECP) said today the €221 million Core Funding Programme (CFP) announced three weeks ago by Minister for Children, Equality, Diversity Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, is seriously flawed, and threatens service provision.

70 per cent of FECP members surveyed reported that, having examined the viability of the core funding allocation to their service, they were not happy they could sustain their business.

A further eight in ten of the 808 childcare providers questioned said that, despite the Government introducing new sick pay legislation this week, they would be unable to meet any demand for sick pay, while at the same time providing the necessary relief staff to meet required ratios of carers to children.

With over one third of providers committed to rejecting the new core funding model and just 12 per cent saying they will sign-up, more childcare headaches for parents are likely on the horizon.

Protest closures, lobbying local TDs and petitions are planned by the sector across the country.

FECP Chairperson Elaine Dunne claims that, with price inflation going up to 6 per cent, industry costs have risen in the last year by almost the same level as the total capitation increase in the last 12 years;

“The Minister’s Department is using inflation assumptions dating from September last, which forecast a rate of 2.1 per cent this year.

Childcare providers are facing increasing overheads due to additional regulatory requirements, wage increases, insurance hikes and the fallout from Covid closures and the expensive operational measures required.

The irony of the Taoiseach recently condemning price-fixing in fuel supply, is not lost on us.

Now his Government wants to fix our fees and set our wage costs and conditions, with no consideration of rapidly rising childcare overheads, like energy and insurance.”

In March last year the Government’s ‘Our Rural Future’ document committed to services in rural areas, including better childcare.

The policy announced last week does nothing to support this aim, FECP members say, in that it favours large profit-making urban providers, with high graduate staff ratios, and penalises the smaller community-friendly providers whose staff are nonetheless highly experienced.

Ms. Dunne said the FECP is organising to reject the new Core Funding model in its #I’mNotSigning campaign, and would be actively engaging with local TDs, via its strong network of providers, in the build-up to the next election.