More than 190 childcare facilities closed since Covid-19 pandemic began

Fears closures will become a serious issue when parents return to workplaces in the future
More than 190 childcare facilities closed since Covid-19 pandemic began

A total of 192 early years and preschool facilities closed between the beginning of the pandemic and the end of December.

A total of 192 early years and preschool facilities closed between the beginning of the pandemic and the end of December.

The figures, released to Sinn Féin TD Denise Mitchell, come from the child and family agency, Tusla.

Ms Mitchell had asked Children's Minister Roderic O'Gorman for the figures and was referred to Tusla. The Tusla answer reveals that 192 of the country's 3,000 early years and creche facilities closed last year.

"In line with the requirements of Child Care Act 1991 (as amended by Part 12 of the Child and Family Agency Act, 2013), registered providers of early years services who have decided to close their service of their own volition are obliged to notify Tusla of their planned closure.

"All data collected by Tusla related to reported service cessations is collated and verified on a rolling monthly basis. On this basis, the number of service closures reported to Tusla between 1 March 2020 and 31 December 2020 is 192."

Ms Mitchell said this figure was "concerning".

“For 192 early years and preschool settings to have closed their doors from March to December of last year is very concerning. 

The early years sector has been under immense pressure, and places available for children are already insufficient. The department and Tusla must do more to support these services.”

Louise Bayliss, co-founder of Single Parents Acting for the Rights of our Kids (Spark), said the closures would become a serious issue when parents return to workplaces in the future.

"Now with a lot of parents working from home, there won't be as much pressure on places. But when people start to return to work, it will become an issue for a lot of people."

She said access to childcare remained a particularly acute concern for single parents, particularly those with school-aged children. Ms Bayliss added that many frontline workers are single parents and the recent expansion of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment had come with unintended consequences.

"We had welcomed the expansion of the PUP to include people who had to leave jobs because they had no childcare, but then it came out that parents who take it up are not automatically returned to their jobs, so we're reminding them that they have to discuss it with their employer."

Meanwhile, Childhood Services Ireland, the Ibec group representing the Irish childcare sector, gave a cautious welcome to the Department of Children’s funding arrangements for the childcare sector for the duration of the level 5 lockdown.

Childhood Services Ireland director Darragh Whelan said its 'focus now is on helping childcare providers remain open for the children of frontline and essential workers and vulnerable children'.

Childhood Services Ireland director Darragh Whelan said its 'focus now is on helping childcare providers remain open for the children of frontline and essential workers and vulnerable children'.

Under the terms of the funding arrangements, services that remain open will continue to receive 100% legacy scheme funding, 70% of ECCE funding, and continue to receive the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme at the enhanced rate.

Childhood Services Ireland director Darragh Whelan said: "The childcare sector is fully committed to playing its part in helping our healthcare workers through this crisis, and this arrangement will enable us to do so. There are outstanding uncertainties on which we are working with the department to seek clarity. However, this arrangement should see the childcare providers through the next six weeks until the restrictions begin to ease on March 5.

"Our focus now is on helping childcare providers remain open for the children of frontline and essential workers and vulnerable children."

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