AN URGENT call has been made for improvements to supports for childcare services, which one Clare councillor describing a “crisis situation” for the sector.
A motion was tabled by Councillor Pat McMahon at Monday’s local authority meeting, in which he appealed for support to put pressure on government on the matter.
“Childcare workers are barely getting the minimum wages in some cases,” Councillor McMahon said. “People are studying for years in college and they are just not being appreciated. Childcare services are finding it difficult to recruit staff as a result.
The councillor state the minimum wage “is not good enough for such an important role”, pointing out that childcare workers are highly qualified and, like everyone, affected by issues accessing housing, health and education.
“We need a strong childcare system, but it’s falling apart,” said suggesting the government “gets serious and looks at countries with same population like Finland”.
“There is a huge amount of people leaving the sector, said the councillor, adding, “This situation is posing a huge threat to our economy. This is a crisis, a very serious situation.”
The motion was seconded by Councillor Michael Begley, who agreed that the sector is facing unprecedented challenges.
“The wages paid to staff is bare minimum in most cases,” he said. “It is now extremely difficult for childcare services to get staff. We have a creche locally that caters for all ages from six months. There is no problem to get staff to work up until 1pm.
“Most of the staff in the sector are female. That means that half of the population are eliminated when you go out looking at hiring childcare staff.
“Most of these workers have children of their own finishing school at 1pm, and they need to collect and look after them.
“To get staff to work in childcare in the afternoon is virtually impossible. The wages are not attractive enough and not good enough. This message needs to be sent very strongly to government. The childcare system will fall apart if this is not addressed.
“Half-hearted and and Micky Mouse measures have been offered so far. They just patch up the situation temporarily and are not good enough. Thus situation needs to be addressed immediately.”
Councillor Joe Garrihy thanked Councillor McMahon for tabling the motion.
“This issue has still not been addressed, despite all of the efforts to highlight the sector,” he said.
“I am chair of an organisation that manages a community creche. It has a €400,000 turnover a year. Every cent of that goes into local economy.
“Childcare services provide early education and integration. All childcare workers are highly qualified and committed. They haven’t been appreciated. They are now being asked to take Level 8 qualifications.
“They are the highest calibre of people. They hold together a vital piece of a jigsaw. Society and work can’t function without childcare services. Some improvements have been made, but they need to ramp up. They are under an awful lot of pressure.
“It is now more attractive to work in a bar, than in childcare, in our area, in terms of pay. Most childcare workers are passionate about their work and they’re not in the job for the money.”
The motion was also supported by Councillor Donna McGettigan.
“I’m looking at this from a female perspective because 98% of the sector is female. The sector is made up of professionals who have gone through high-level training. The cost of childcare is locking a lot of women out of work.”
Councillor Clare Colleran Molloy said that when she was a candidate in the 2016 General Election, the issue was of major concern.
“This was a key issue on the doorsteps,” she said. “People were very concerned about the lack of investment in early childcare and education. We are giving women degrees in early childhood education. I teach them myself at The Bindon Street campus of TUS.
“Childcare workers are doing sophisticated studies. The fact that they are not rewarded is really shameful and a true failure of our government in recent years.”