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Zappone reverses funding cut for creches on day of protest action next week

Creche owners had been told the department will not fund an alternative day to make up time for the protest.

Image: Shutterstock

Updated Jan 30th 2020, 1:49 PM

THE DEPARTMENT OF Children has been told by Minister Katherine Zappone to reverse its decision to cut one day of funding for creches that take part in a protest planned next week.

The department had earlier said it would not fund creches to open on an alternative day to make up time, which meant these businesses would have to cover the costs themselves. 

The National Early Years protest takes place on 5 February. The demonstration seeks to highlight a number of issues facing the sector, including rising insurance costs and pay for workers.

Siptu has called for the introduction of a living wage of €12.30, stating that early years educators, despite their qualifications, earn €11.45 on average.

In a notice posted on its website this week, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs warned creche owners that they would not receive funding for the day if they close or even partially close for the rally. 

The department has received legal advice that if services close for the protest day, or if they do not provide a service to a particular group of children and their parents, the department will not be in a position to provide funding for that day. This is in accordance with the existing contracts. Protests of this kind are not covered, for example, by force majeure.

It said it was not in a position to fund an alternative day where services propose to make up the lost time from the protest on another occasion.

This afternoon, however, Minister Zappone said that she had “considered the concerns and circumstances of the childcare sector” in instructing her department to authorise payments to creches set to close on 5 February.

In a statement, it was confirmed that payments will be made on the condition that childcare providers find an alternative, suitable date for parents to avail of childcare services in lue of the day the creche is closed.

Sinn Féin candidate Pauline Tully raised the issue yesterday after concerned creche owners in the Cavan/Monaghan constituency alerted her to it.

“This is an outrageous threat to childcare providers. It amounts to bullying of a badly funded service and low paid workers,” she said.

“It is also an unacceptable attempt by the government to interfere with the democratic right to protest.”

Earlier today the Early Years Alliance, organisers of next week’s protest, called on the government to reverse the decision not to fund an alternative day.

“Early years services have always been able to change the days they open and keep their funding. However, when it comes to a day of protest the Department of Children and Youth Affairs has said it will not allow services to change their opening days, despite it being common practice,” Marian Quinn, chair of the Association of Childhood Professionals said.

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Siptu’s head of strategic organising and campaigns Darragh O’Connor said there is a “real crisis in childcare”.

More than 60% of Early Years educators earn less than the Living Wage of €12.30 per hour. Parents are paying some of the highest fees in Europe and many services are struggling with sustainability. These are the reasons thousands of educators, providers and parents will be marching on Wednesday 5th February in Dublin.

The Early Years Alliance protest will assemble at Parnell Square in Dublin on Wednesday 5 February at 11.30am. The protest march will conclude in Merrion Square.

With reporting from Sean Murray

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