Parents have urged the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to provide staff funding to seven community creches in Cork city which are at risk of closure.
The Irish Examiner revealed earlier this week how the creches, which provide family support for 225 toddlers in some of the most disadvantaged parts of Cork City, face serious funding challenges due to changes to childcare regulations which mean they must hire more trained staff.
The Cork Early Years Alliance is to hold a briefing at the Imperial Hotel on Monday to inform local politicians of how these early years services cannot survive beyond September.
Lone parent Samantha Austin, mother to three-year-old Timmy and one-year-old Dylan, said staff at the Togher Family Centre “did so much to help” when she and her children were homeless. With their help, she is now housed in nearby Greenmount.
“They do a lot more than look after children,” she said. “I went there myself when I was younger and they’ve always been there for me and the kids when we needed it. They’ve also done great work with Timmy. He has more words because of the creche, before he couldn’t sit down but now he can sit on a chair, he can count, knows his colours.”
Shyni Joy George, from Wilton, has two children with additional needs. Her five-year-old son Jonathan has autism and her two-year-old daughter, Juanita, who attends the Togher Family Centre, has microcephaly, which leads to feeding and balance problems.
“I have my hands full with two children with special needs,” she said. “The Brothers of Charity recommended them to me and they have been helpful to us all the way. Juanita has benefitted hugely from being there, from exploring new things, from learning. They have been helpful to so many families in the area.”
The Cork Early Years Alliance creches say their existing budgets cannot stretch to “having three qualified childcare workers for every child under three”.
The creches affected include Togher Family Centre, An Cliabhan in Ballyphehane, the Traveller Visibility Group creche in Shandon, Baile Beag in Mayfield, Glenfields Childcare in Ballyvolane, Mahon Community Development Project, and Before 5 creche in Churchfield.
According to Niamh Sheridan of the Cork Early Years Alliance and Togher Family Centre, many of these children attend their creches as they are unable to find places in other creches.
Some 26% of these children have already been identified as having special needs such as Down syndrome, epilepsy, or learning or physical disabilities, while another 24% are awaiting a diagnosis.
Another 12% of the children come from families where English is not their first language and so they present communication challenges.
The Department of Children and Youth Affairs says some community creches have been historically reliant on CE staff who did not have Fetac Level 5 training and were given until the beginning of this year to ensure that the extra required training was completed as per the 1991 Child Care Act.
The department said it is “finalising a package of support for services who have engaged with Childcare Committees Ireland” but the Cork Early Years Alliance says it has not any guarantees of sufficient funding beyond September.
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