Childcare providers fear they may have to close down and said the number of childcare places available will reduce significantly as a result of the Community Child-care Subvention Scheme, which comes into effect from January 1, 2008.
The Irish Childcare Policy Network has called for a deferral of the introduction of the scheme to allow more consultation with the community childcare providers it represents.
The scheme will do away with the traditional Government grant to pay for staff in community-run, not-for-profit childcare centres.
It will be replaced with a system whereby “disadvantaged” children — or those whose parents are on certain forms of social welfare — will be charged reduced fees for pre-schools.
All other parents will be required to pay the full cost of the childcare service that is being used.
The network held a meeting with a number of TDs in Dublin yesterday to discuss the concerns of childcare providers.
The group presented research showing that funding will be reduced substantially in four out of five community pre-schools.
It said this will result in fee increases for most parents, and those who are not on social welfare but on low incomes may have to leave their jobs to look after their children.
Speaking at the meeting, Packie Kelly, from the Family Resource Centre National Forum, gave the example of a typical childcare centre in a rural area, which gets about €100,000 a year in staffing grants under the present system. He said their annual funding would be reduced by about €25,000 under the new plans.
Marlene McCormack, from the IPPA Early Childhood Organisation, said the cost increases facing parents are “huge” and will range between 25% in some centres to 80% in others.
“The parents who will really suffer are the parents who are on low incomes, who work and who require childcare.
“It’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity,” she said.