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Violet Anne Wynne. Photograph by John Kelly

Clare childcare providers operating at a loss

Small childcare providers are operating at a loss and are worse off under the new Government scheme, Deputy Violet Anne-Wynne (Ind) has warned.
Sinn Féin Deputy Kathleen Funchion tabled a motion in the Dáil recently calling on the Government to cut childcare fees for families by two thirds from 2022 levels, to make them affordable for parents by further increasing public investment; and allocate additional funding to provide fair pay for professionals working in the childcare sector.
Deputy Wynne welcomed a statement from Minister for Children, Roderick O’Gorman (GP) that more work needs to be done to improve childcare services, which she said couldn’t be overstated.
Stating the investment in childcare is coming from a very low base, the Independent Deputy stressed the reform required is far bigger than last year’s expenditure.
“Inflation has increased exponentially in the three-year period from May 2020 to May 2023 while the core funding has risen only by 6% in that period,” she said.
“We are aware that three groups are affected: there was the cost to the parents; the low pay of these highly skilled workers; and the cost of being a provider in the context of low fees for parents and fair pay for the valued workers who are educators.
“People in the childcare sector are deeply affected by the removal of their title as educators. A lot of hurt has been caused by what might seem to his Department a minor change but it has caused a ripple effect.”
Minister of State at the Department of Health Anne Rabbitte (FF) agreed that further efforts are needed to reduce out-of-pocket costs for families, to improve the pay and working conditions of the hard-working and committed workforce, to reduce the administrative and regulatory burden on providers; to maintain the providers on a solid and sustainable footing; and to ensure that children get the very best possible start in life.
“The Government has set out a pathway to address these challenges, and has already made significant progress in this regard with the European Commission recently endorsing our approach and welcoming the substantial progress we have made,” she said.
“Among the achievements in year one was a fee freeze among 95% of the services, which meant an increase to the national childcare scheme, NCS, subsidy that was fully felt by parents; a 15% increase in the number of services offering the National Childcare Scheme; and the improvement of pay for an estimated 73% of those working in the sector.”

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