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‘Without state interventions many childcare providers will go out of business’

Childcare centre owners Sarah O’Leary and and Michele Akerlind explain how better investment can build a well paid and affordable childcare sector.

Sarah O’Leary & Michele Akerlind

This is the third in a four-part series of letters addressed to new Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration, Roderic O’Gorman, on the future of childcare in Ireland. This morning we hear from a childcare service provider.


Congratulations on your appointment as Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration. It is our hope that we will continue to build on the work and achievements of Minister Zapponne, who made some inroads on improving the lives of children in Ireland in very challenging times.

Now more than ever society has a greater understanding of the important contribution that Early Years and Childcare professionals play in underpinning and supporting a successful economy. 

However, the sector has an equally important social dimension attached to it, as outlined in your mission statement on developing a society where the young, vulnerable and marginalised are at the centre. At Cheeky Cherubs we highly value this ethos. 

  • Read more here on how you can support a major Noteworthy project to examine how we can construct a childcare system in post-pandemic Ireland that works for everyone.

Over the past 15 years, we have experienced many challenges as well as celebrated many achievements  as we try to balance the welfare and rights of children through our award-winning approach while also sustaining a viable business. 

Private providers are the largest investors in Early Years Care and Education in the Sate, through their investment in their buildings, their staff, and education. 

Unlike other European countries, the burden of the cost of childcare has primarily been left to the parents, which means there has been chronic under-investment in the sector. 

As a result of this under-investment, educators are often working for a lot less than their worth and providers are having to make choices between paying their bills or increasing wages. 

Overheads hanging over the sector

The overheads and regulatory requirements often take priority. Without government interventions many childcare providers will continue to go out of business, which will result in parents being unable to go to work, undermining the restoration of the Irish economy.

The true cost to childcare needs to be to be acknowledged. We need to support families to access affordable high-quality care and education, while also ensuring that there are sufficient funds for attractive professional wages and reinvestment.

As the first five years are the most formative in a person’s life, it makes sense that this is the most advantageous time to invest. The Early Years sector always strives to lead the way in supporting children, particularly supporting those experiencing disadvantage and disabilities to be treated with equity and integrated into the childcare community. 

Investment in the early years has long term financial and societal benefits, supporting a person to reach their potential regardless of their possible disadvantages.

We, the Early Years sector, need investment to enable us to create stimulating safe environments for our children, where their educators are well paid, and make it affordable to all parents.

Like many other sectors this can be achieved through partnership with private operators who are best placed to continue to provide facilities, continued investment, and expertise. 

So, we encourage you Minister, to engage with the representatives of the Early Years immediately and engage in dynamic and respectful dialogue where you can gain an understanding of what is required to hold the child at the centre of everything, yet still valuing the educator and provider.

Do not see the issue of childcare as a political issue, it is so much more than that.

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Sarah O Leary and Michele Akerlind are the co-founders of the three Cheeky Cherubs Early Years Schools, Early Years Care and Education centres in Cork. 


Do you want to know the toll that the pandemic has taken on the childcare sector?

The Noteworthy team wants to do an in-depth investigation into this issue and examine how we can build a more resilient and reliable childcare system for Ireland’s future.

Here’s how to help support this proposal>

About the author:

Sarah O’Leary & Michele Akerlind

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