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The government provided no extra funding in the Budget to Early Childhood Care and Education Scheme (ECCE) operators. Image by katemangostar on Freepik

Anger as Clare preschool facilities snubbed in €11BN Budget

Fears have been expressed about the viability of the early childcare education sector after Clare pre-school facilities were “snubbed” and “discriminated against” in the €11 Billion 2023 Budget.

Concern about the lack of adequate funding for Clare pre-schools has been expressed by Deputy Michael McNamara in his Budget speech.

“The so-called universal payment towards the cost of childcare is not universal but rather relates to everybody who comes through the national childcare scheme.

“I accept that is a lot of people, but it is not everybody. There is no sort of tax credit system, such as that which exists in the UK, towards the cost of childcare, so it is not going to be universal, even if it was flagged as such by the line Minister, Deputy (Roderic) O’Gorman.”

Donna McNamara who provides early education to 11 children in the Tiny Tots Montessori/Preschool Ennis said the government provided no extra funding in the Budget on Tuesday to Early Childhood Care and Education Scheme (ECCE) operators.

“We feel snubbed, left out and forgotten about. We are preparing children for their next big step going to school. We are starting children on their early education journey and are not getting any recognition for it.

“How can we pay our staff extra if we are not getting paid ourselves. It is not fair, they are discriminating against EECE only operators.

“I am running my business 26 years. I am staying in it for the love of the business. It is very disheartening, sometimes you wonder would it be easier to get a job in a supermarket because we have so much paperwork. It the small services that are left behind. We were not even mentioned in the Budget.

“I don’t think parents even know the crisis that ECCE only services are in as regards lack of pay. The government word everything very well on the media to sound like parents and childcare providers are gaining, but they failed to mention that ECCE Early Childhood Care and Education-only providers have gained nothing. I feel we are very undervalued and underpaid for the work we do.”

Connie Hannon, who has capacity to provide early education for 44 children in Teach Abhaile Pre-School, said the additional funding announced by the government in the Budget will only benefit parents who have children in registered crèches but doesn’t include the ECCE Scheme.

“I am very disappointed with the Budget. We provide really good quality services. I did a degree in childhood education, which cost €8,000. I have done so many different courses over the years and then you are not recognised for your efforts. It is almost like they are devaluing our qualifications.

“We work really hard and it is important children have a good transition before they start primary school. Early years education is a sector that has been ignored.”

She expressed concern about the future viability of small pre-schools in rural areas unless their cost base is low through the provision of a free premises in a community facility.

“There is going to be closures of very small providers in rural areas. For small childcare providers with 10 or 11 children in a rural area, I don’t think it will be viable for them to stay open unless they are on the grounds of a school and have very little rent to pay.

“People think we are off during the summer months, we are not, we have to do courses and get the premises ready for re-opening.

“Recruiting staff this year was an absolute nightmare. There has been so much negativity about the early childhood sector, it has led to people leaving the service.”

Davina McCarthy Daly operates Little Harvards Montesorri in Seafield Quilty, which has 22 children in the ECC Scheme from 9.30am to 1.30pm.

She said it looked as if they government were trying to get rid of pre-schools due to the lack of proper funding.

Maggie McGuire is providing early education to 22 children in Woodstock Montessori and Pre-school from 9 am to 12 noon for 38 weeks during the year.

While early educators are expected to have a degree qualification and some have masters, Maggie pointed out they are not paid anything close to a primary school teacher.

She claimed the department has relabelled their core funding without providing any additional payment by cutting the payment from €80 to €69 per child if the educator had a degree before this was included in their overall amount.

“The department are giving you money in one hand and taking it away in another. The government controls how many hours a day, how many days a week I work and what I am paid, yet according to the department, I am a self-employed business owner.

“The fine print in the contract is where the Department of Children and Youth Affairs is standing on the neck of every woman in early years education and has been getting away with this since 2010. It would make you feel sick.”

She pointed out early educators were required by the department to do several courses in first aid responder, child protection, healthy eating and behavioural management at their own expense in their own time.

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