Just one in four children have been registered to return to some childcare providers as creches reopen across the country, it has emerged.
In a quarter of creches nationally, between 25% and 35% of children previously in attendance had been registered to attend once more from June 29, according to a survey of 44 childcare providers conducted by Seas Suas, a representative body for early learning and care providers.
Perhaps more worryingly, just 10% of the providers in question have seen 75% or more of their previous complement of children re-registered, with parents fearful of the continued health risks associated with further outbreaks of the coronavirus.
Nearly four-fifths of childcare businesses are meanwhile concerned as to their continued viability from September should the Government’s temporary wage subsidy scheme (TWSS) not be replaced by additional supports for the sector.
The issue of how to handle childcare, already an embattled industry, in the midst of Covid-19 had bedevilled the previous Government for months, with multiple plans failing to satisfy providers or collapsing completely, as was the case with an attempt to provide childcare for frontline workers.
Responsibility for the industry has now been taken over by new Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman, Green Party TD for Dublin West.
According to the new survey, 15% of providers nationally had planned to remain closed as Ireland entered phase three of its roadmap for reopening the country.
Of the 86% which were due to reopen, almost a third of said they would not be in a position to bring back all their staff before September due to the reduced demand seen as a result of the crisis.
The vast majority of providers, 69%, said that health and safety measures are of primary concern to parents in deciding whether or not to send their children back to creche.
Nearly two-thirds said that communication from the former Department of Children and Youth Affairs and child and family agency Tusla with regard to health guidelines and timelines for reopening had been either ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’.
Creches were free to open from June 29 with social distancing implemented by way of a ‘pod’ system, which would see children confined to such groupings numbering between 6 and 12.
The Seas Suas survey found that 43% of businesses had incurred costs of €10,000 or more in preparing to reopen per the Government’s guidelines.