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Dublin: 19 °C Thursday 13 August, 2020
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State grants will ensure childcare providers should have no reason to increase fees, says minister

A €75 million funding package has been announced.

Image: Shutterstock/Rawpixel.com

A €75 MILLION funding package for childcare providers has been announced today to ensure that parents should not be charged higher fees than pre-Covid-19.

A once-off reopening grant of €18 million for centre-based providers opening on 29 June or in late August will be provided.

While those in the childcare sector have welcomed the announcement of the supports, they state it is “short-sighted” and not enough.

The government said the funding will help providers with operational costs, including additional staffing costs that may be needed to help with drop off and pick up times, and also for cleaning staff that may be needed to ensure that hygiene standards are met.

The money will also be used to provide training to staff on guidelines for reopening, and will also provide additional learning resources, books and toys so that each play-pod has their own.

There is a further €14.2 million once-off capital grant, which is to assist childcare facilities adhere to reopening guidelines by improving hygiene facilities and outdoor play areas.

A once-off grant totalling €375, 000 will be provided for childminders.

A grant of €500 per childminder registered with Tusla, or notified to their City / County Childcare Committee, will be made to assist them with the costs of reopening. 

There are approximately 750 registered childminders in the State.

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone said Early Learning and Childcare Services are important for children and their parents, and they are essential to reopening the economy. 

“I’m pleased to give details today of how we will support the childcare sector to get up and running again,” she said.

In developing the funding model the minister said she recognises that a reduced number of children are likely to attend Early Learning and Childcare services in the initial weeks of reopening. 

This necessitates a tailored model, which will allow providers to operate with less parental income, she said.

Zappone said The Temporary Wage Subsidy Childcare Scheme (TWSCS) will continue to operate up to 28 June.

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, the minister said the funding will ensure that childcare providers should “be close or break even” with these grants. 

She said childcare providers should therefore not increase their fees for parents.

If providers are beyond 50% capacity, these grants “will allow them to make a profit or surplus”, said Zappone.

When asked what parents should do if their providers hike up childcare fees, she said the provider should not do this, as they are being offered state support to ensure they can reopen.

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To get these grants, the providers must enter into contract that they are not going to charge more and cannot increase their fees, said Zappone.

She added that parents will have recourse to her department if providers do ask for more money.

Reacting to the announcement today, Seas Suas, which represents early education and childcare providers said the response to the childcare crisis continues to be “short-sighted, confusing and lacking in detail”.

“The package – while useful – falls short,” Seas Suas said in a statement.

 “The average creche cares for approx. 40 children. For the period of this funding package, occupancy levels will fall to as low as 10 children with only one in four returning. With demand down and costs significantly up for at least six months, this funding will quickly run-out.

“We recognise fully that any support is better than none and is to be welcomed. The extension of the wage subsidy makes a difference but like the package overall, it has a hard stop of the end August,” the statement adds.

Elaine Dunne, Chairperson of the Federation of Early Childhood Providers, said:

“I am extremely fearful that hundreds of childcare providers won’t be able to open their doors on June 29th. The sector was closed for the past ten weeks, and most have incurred huge bills and overheads, and there will be more massive costs in getting ready to reopen.”

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