AS some childcare providers in the county re-opened their doors this week, workers in the sector reveal the financial challenges they are facing as they call for funding reforms.
SIPTU Organiser and Big Start Co-ordinator for Clare, Yvonne McGrath insists, “This vital service cannot be delivered on poverty pay”. The campaign is urging the incoming government to deliver on pre-election pledges to reform the early years sector and implement a new funding model that delivers for children, workers, providers and parents.
Ms McGrath says, “Early years educators are eager and enthusiastic to return to work. They play an essential role in our society and parents who have struggled balancing work and looking after children have some much welcomed relief. However, the issues that existed before the lockdown have not gone away. The reality is that before the Covid-19 outbreak the sector was in the grip of a low pay and staffing crisis with the majority of workers earning below the living wage.”
She adds, “This vital service cannot be delivered on poverty pay. SIPTU representatives have already been advised of childcare providers reducing hours and pay with some workers being laid off permanently. This is unsustainable for a sector already under tremendous strain. The incoming government needs to deliver on their pre-election pledges to reform the childcare sector so that it is high quality, affordable and delivered by educators who are paid a decent wage.”
Early Years educator and union member Elaine Carroll comments, “It is great to return to what we do; providing a safe environment for children to learn and develop, which is vital for all children. The work of early years professionals has never been valued or properly recognised until the wage subsidy childcare scheme came in response to the public health crisis. We are calling for the new government to continue the temporary wage subsidy scheme for early years educators. This scheme is vital for our sector’s survival as we go through a gradual reopening with reduced capacity and insufficient funding. We want to see proper pay scales in place for everyone to create stability in the sector for staff, providers and families.”
Deirdre O’Keefe, Early Years Educator and SIPTU member, adds, “These are challenging and uncertain times for all early years educators. I am very happy and excited to return to work, but we are also anxious about how it will be managed. The sustainability of the sector must include provision and support to the professional staff on the ground. We are, after all, essential workers because the country cannot operate without the care and education of our children.”
While pre-school educator and fellow union member Rhona Gomès, says, “As a pre-school teacher working in Clare, the funding levels announced by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs are not sufficient for the sector. While we understand childcare must be available for parents and children, low pay and high turnover in the sector must be addressed as a matter of urgency and political pledges to reform childcare prioritised by the incoming Minister.”