More than 40% of the country’s childcare providers have not signed up to the new affordable childcare scheme meaning tens of thousands of children could miss out on the support.
Parents face the heart-ache of being forced to move their children to another creche or could miss out on the new grants completely if they cannot find a childcare provider that has signed up to the Government scheme.
With creches and childcare facilities due to begin the roll-out of the scheme from next week, just 2,626 of the 4,484 early years services registered with Tusla have signed up.
Fianna Fáil children’s spokeswoman Anne Rabbitte said she has been inundated by calls and emails from worried parents who fear they may not be able to avail of what was meant to be a universal childcare support.
“What really scares me in this is parents are left with no option at this stage,” said Ms Rabbitte.
The childcare supports announced as part of Budget 2017 will provide parents with a new universal non-means tested subsidy of up to €1,040 per year for children aged six months to three years.
However, Ms Rabbitte said she had been contacted by a number of worried parents and had also been sent a copy of a letter from a creche informing parents that they will not be participating in the scheme due to a lack of information and a fear that the Government will have too much control over their business.
“Childcare places can be very hard to come by, especially in larger towns and cities, with parents coming under even more pressure if they have more than one child in a creche,” said Ms Rabbitte.
“Most parents will not want to uproot their kids, particularly if they are happy there and have made friends. However, if their provider hasn’t signed up to the affordable childcare scheme, they will miss out on the subsidies they are entitled to.”
However, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said the preliminary figures are “very encouraging” and the website affordablechildcare.ie has had almost 400,000 page visits.
“We can now confirm that 2,626 childcare providers have signed up to deliver the new supports for families,” she said. Given that many services have yet to reopen after the summer break this is very positive.”
It has been reported that some parents have already received notifications that the fees charged will be increased in September to allow for the additional administration cost of the scheme, while for others this cost has been cited as a reason for not entering the scheme in the first place.
Acknowledging the key role of providers, Ms Zappone said she has made €12m available in payments for admin work as well as significant increases in capital investment to €12.4m which is supporting 2,688 projects across the country.
“This is only just the beginning. Our investment in early years in 2017 is €466m, an 80% increase since 2015,” she said.
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