AT least six Mayo-based childcare providers are at risk of closure due to rising costs and lack of government funding, The Mayo News has learned.
This comes as people marched through the streets of Castlebar last Friday in protest at the government’s new funding model for the sector.
Beginning at the constituency office of Alan Dillon, TD, the protestors walked as far as the County Childcare Committee offices.
The march was part of a series of nationwide demonstrations led by the Federation of Early Childhood Providers (FECP).
FECP President Elaine Dunne told The Mayo News yesterday evening (Monday) that at least six Mayo-based childcare providers have told her that it is no longer viable for them to remain in business.
Ms Dunne spoke to two Mayo-based providers who said they ‘will definitely be gone this time next year’. At least one facility has already informed parents that they are due to close.
“You’re definitely going to see closures down there. One-hundred percent,” Ms Dunne said.
FECP claim that up to 260 providers are at risk of closure due to the loss of payments for those catering to the state-subsidised ECCE scheme (Early Childhood Care and Education).
FECP say that the rising costs of energy, staffing and other inflation-linked pressures have rendered many ECCE providers unviable.
The group has called for an increase in the capitation grant in order to ensure the survival of independent providers.
The representative body has also hit out at the amount of administration involved in running childcare facilities.
“It is ironic that a Government purporting to support local enterprise and SMEs cannot properly fund small businesses in the childcare sector,” Ms Dunne said in a statement.
“And these are the very ones running the State’s own childcare initiatives. ECCE is about early learning for pre-schoolers, and it facilitates parents contributing to the labour market.
“The current situation where the Minister is determined not to engage on a solution just flies in the face of industry and enterprise on so many levels,”
Over 10,000 parents have signed a signature calling on the government to adequately fund local childcare.
Ms Dunne noted that the government’s ‘Our Rural Future’ plan gives commitments to supporting services in rural areas, including childcare, to drive employment and economic growth. FECP claim that the policies being pursued by Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman would ‘obliterate’ small childcare providers in rural locations that are dependent on ECCE funding.
Minister O’Gorman has described last Friday’s protests as ‘unwarranted and unfair on children’.