‘Childcare services at serious risk of closure’... Local Montessori school planning to take part in protests

A NAVAN-based Montessori school owner who is planning to take part in a nationwide protest over funding issues says action needs to be taken or childcare services across the country will be forced to close.

Lynda Carroll and staff from The Montessori Story will travel to Dublin to march from Leinster House to the Department of Children to highlight the struggle faced by the sector. The Federation for Early Childhood Providers has organised a number of protests in recent weeks over the new funding system which was introduced two months ago.

They believe that the new system means that facilities which only offer the ECCE programme are losing out.

The ECCE programme is two years' worth of Government-funded pre-school education available to all children.

ECCE and childcare providers are threatening to start rolling closures in the coming weeks to protest the Government's funding of the sector.

Ms Carroll has warned that childcare services are under threat due to state subsidies failing to account for rising energy costs, staffing overheads and over inflation lined pressures. She added:

“Very significant issues need to be addressed in order to secure the viability of Early Years services including ECCE preschools, part-time and full day care services. Services around the country are closing at a frightening rate, another 80 have closed this year so far.

"We are asking the Department for Children to increase the rate of ECCE funding from €69 per week to €76 per week. Services across the country are struggling as the funding rate has failed to address inflation and rising costs.

"Many Early Year services have not increased their parental fees since 2016/2017. The government has not taken this into consideration and have not supported services in line with inflation or investment of funding to make sure these businesses are viable. Ireland being one of the lowest funded EU countries at a rate of .2 per cent GDP versus other European countries that are at a rate of 1.2 per cent.

A one size fits all approach does not work according to Lynda who has schools in Navan and Kells.

"Another big issue is admin. We are calling for recognition of increased administrative burden due to the increased number of schemes now being implemented by the department – NCS, ECCE, CCSP, AIM.

"The cost base of running a service varies vastly across the country as costs are influenced by geographical location, population density etc.

Lynda claims the Department has failed to acknowledge the protests at Leinster House, the letters and thousands of e-mails sent to both the Minister of Children and Youth Affairs, Roderic O’Gorman and other Departmental Ministerial officials.

"Early Year Services are the backbone of every town and village across the country. It is of utmost importance that their viability is ensured and that they stay open to meet the need of their community.”