Half of the creches given a last-minute emergency payment as an insurance crisis threatened providers across the sector with closure, received less than €1,000.
Last month, Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone announced once-off funding to creches which had seen insurance quotes soar by up to 300% after one of only two insurers pulled out of the Irish market.
Ms Zappone denied this funding, an average payment of €1,500 per creche, constituted “state intervention”. She said the payment was in recognition of the “additional administration” providers faced during 2019.
With payments calculated based on the number of children in full-time or part-time care, some creches would see payments of up to €26,000 made before December 28, according to Ms Zappone.
However, just over half of the 4,346 creches which received the additional payment received less than €1,000, the Department of Children has now confirmed.
Just one creche received a payment of €26,000. In many cases, this payment has fallen short of the average amount promised, according to Seán Sherlock, Labour’s spokesman for Children and Youth Affairs.
“The Minister’s assertion that an average payment of €1,500 [would be made] is way off target,” Deputy Sherlock said.
One childcare provider who contacted Mr Sherlock’s office received €350 for a sessional service for 11 children. This payment is a “far cry” from €1,500, the provider said.
“The registration for large and small services is exactly the same [so] why penalise the small services,” they said. “If anything it's harder for them.”
Another childcare provider who contacted Mr Sherlock’s office said that they received “nowhere near” €1,500, receiving a payment of almost €664 for 20 children.
Mr Sherlock said: “It would have been better if the Minister had engaged with the underwriter and insurance companies in the first place.
“There are many providers who won’t benefit in real terms from the Minister’s announcement.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Children said the payment was calculated based on the number of children a childcare provider has in their service on a DCYA scheme, and on a child’s attendance.
“The Minister acknowledges there are many providers who are facing increased insurance costs which is undoubtedly causing distress to providers and worry to parents.
“The Government is limited in what it can do in this situation. It cannot compel a private business to remain in the market, nor can it directly intervene in the pricing of insurance offered to childcare providers.”
The €7 million financial package for creches, was announced by Ms Zappone just hours after both the Taoiseach and the finance minister ruled out emergency funding for the sector.
Leo Varadkar told the Dáil: “If an insurer is unable to provide cover for a particular facility, be it a creche, a childcare provider or anything else, there may be a good reason for that. There may be a very high risk attached to insuring it. For the State to wander in blindly and offer to cover the bills of a private company or even a public body, no questions asked, would be entirely reckless.”
In the days that followed four of the main insurance providers for restaurants and cafes signalled they are leaving the Irish hospitality market. The Restaurants Association of Ireland estimates that 40% of its 2,500 members will be directly affected by this.