€75m funding package announced for childcare sector

The new model proposed by Minister for Children Katherine Zappone includes a once-off reopening grant of €18m for centre-based providers opening on 29 June and late August.
€75m funding package announced for childcare sector

Additional reporting by Paul Hosford

A funding package of €75m for the childcare sector has been agreed by Cabinet.

The new model proposed by Minister for Children Katherine Zappone includes a once-off reopening grant of €18m for centre-based providers opening on 29 June and late August.

There is also a once-off capital grant of €14.2m.

All registered centre-based services re-opening between 29 June and the beginning of September can avail of this grant.

A once-off grant totalling €375,000 will be provided for childminders.

A grant of €500 per childminder registered with Tusla, or notified to authorities will be made to assist them with the costs of reopening.

The minister has also announced the temporary wage subsidy scheme will continue until the end of August for childcare services that reopen on June 29.

It will provide an 85% (or 70% for higher incomes) contribution towards the cost of wages.

Ms Zappone has said she believes the new measures will stop the price of facilities going up for parents.

In a statement, she added: “Many parents need to return to work to support their families. Childcare is essential to this and a critical element in enabling our economy to get up and running again.

"We have clear public health guidance for the childcare sector on how this can happen as safely as possible. We now have a funding model which supports the public health guidance.

"I believe it supports the sustainability of the childcare sector. It is the first step back towards full capacity.”

The suite of measures will run from June 29 to August 23.

The Department of Children will then review the operation of measures in July and will then make further arrangements for services normally reopening in late August and early September.

Labour Party spokesperson on children Sean Sherlock said that some creches have attempted to make up funding shortfalls by charging parents an additional €75 per week.

"We're getting calls from parents, especially if they're returning work that childcare facilities are actually asking them to pay additional fees for their children.

"In one particular case, the creche in question is asking for an additional fee of €15 euros per child per day.

"So, in the absence of any clear plan with any details on what the project entails.

"I think it's incumbent on the minister to actually publish those guidelines because parents need certainty."

Mr Sherlock said that need for certainty extended to childcare providers, some of whom will be unable to modify their buildings, regardless of the grant aid available.

There are some providers who irrespective of whatever grants are provided to enable them to partition their premises, the building they're already operating in is just too small to partition out further.

"There are a lot of community providers out there who you would have had small numbers. For instance, physical partitioning has a bearing on the operation of the play pods.

"What we haven't heard from the minister is whether or not she will make that funding available."

Mr Sherlock said that the previously called for extension to maternity leave should be approved to alleviate pressure on the childcare sector.

"Outside of the extended maternity leave issue, we now have evidence from the Central Statistics Office that there is massive pressure coming on working mothers in particular.

"No matter how progressive we think we are as a society, what we're seeing is that the lack of childcare is having a knock-on effect for working mothers in particular.

"And that's something that affects in terms of their own quality of life, but also in terms of their ability to participate in the workplace."

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