THE TÁNAISTE HAS said the government will do “everything we can” to restore childcare services to 400 families in West Clare, after their provider suddenly shut down and became the centre of a Garda probe into allegations of financial irregularities.
The Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation (GBFI) is investigating claims of irregularities of State funding to the tune of €500,000 at West Clare Early Years Care and Education Services.
Four hundred families have been left in the lurch after the company suddenly shut its operations in Kilrush, Kilkee, Lisseycassey, Kilmihil and Kildysart.
Fifty-three jobs have been lost following the shock closure.
Left in limbo
Staff and parents received a text from the company last Saturday saying it would not open Monday morning.
“I don’t think it is any way to treat the workers involved,” the Tánaiste Joan Burton said.
Up to 600 working parents who use the services have now been left in limbo wondering who will look after their young children.
“We will do everything we can to facilitate that those services are resumed as early as possible, and that the workers are looked after as well,” the Tanaiste pledged.
She added: “Anybody who has small children and a job knows how incredibly difficult it is to hear that your childcare facility has just closed overnight.”
Minister Burton said her party colleague Deputy Michael McNamara was “confident that with talks between the parties (involved), the issues could be resolved”.
The Department of Children and Youth Affairs said it had “provided significant funding” to the company since it was set up in 2000.
Around 500 concerned parents and staff attended an emergency meeting in Clare last night.
The Department of Children and Youth Affairs has stated it is “committed” to having the service resumed as “as a matter of urgency”.
It said it was notified in December 2014 by the board of the company of apparent financial irregularities.
A subsequent report by Pobal, on behalf of the Department, found “significant governance issues and an amount of over-claimed childcare funding totalling approximately €500,000″.
The Department said the report was furnished to GBFI and the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement.
The Department stated Pobal met with the board of the company last Wednesday and, “the board accepted all the findings in the report.”
Pobal’s understanding from the meeting was that an action plan to secure the future of the company would be provided to them by the Board within three weeks.
However the Department added: “It comes as a surprise to both the Department and Pobal that the company has now decided to go into liquidation.”
“The Department and Pobal were not consulted about Saturday’s liquidation decision and were informed through the local media late on Saturday evening.”
“The Department would again like to reiterate its commitment to doing all it can to find a solution to this devastating development for the families and staff of West Clare.”