Who will care for the children?

The future of childcare provision for parents of very young children has been raised as a “significant problem” by one Cavan parent. While many crèches across Cavan provide excellent service for the care of toddlers and babies, the number of service providers that do so is in decline, a situation reflected nationally.

While some childcare facilities in the county are reopening their doors next week, others will only continue to take children of frontline workers; while others say they will not reopen until September. The Celt has heard, anecdotally, of working parents being forced to source crèche places of their children in alternative facilities or explore other childcare options.

A concern that many crèches will no longer provide full day-care for babies and toddlers and only take on pre-school and after-school when restrictions are lifted was voiced by an Anglo Celt reader in a letter to the editor. The reader who did not wish to be named asked the question: “Why are crèches closing their doors to families at this crucial time when it's required the most?”

Pointing out that there are a number of Government schemes to help parents access quality childcare at an affordable cost, the Celt reader queried if childcare providers are going to cut out services for babies and toddlers to the detriment of many parents.

The State provides funding support to crèches through a number of different programmes. The programmes are run on an annual basis. Though The Department of Children and Youth Affairs make the allocations under these banners, the County Childcare Committee act in an advisory capacity to the childcare providers with a strong emphasis on the needs of parents.

Deciding on childcare is a big decision for any parent. There are a number of factors that you need to consider. These include the child’s age, full or part-time care, the hours needed for the services (regular, daytime, evenings or weekends), budget and what services are available in the area.

The funded support programmes include: The National Childcare Scheme, Community Childcare Subvention and Community Childcare Subvention Plus, After-School Child Care Scheme, Childcare Education and Training Support, Early Childhood Care and Education Scheme and the Universal childcare subside.

It is up to the childcare provider if they want to sign up tot he individual schemes or not. Private childcare providers are businesses and as such make decisions on the type of service they provide based on profit and loss. Even community childcare services are limited in the type of service they can provide by resources; funding and staff and space being the main considerations.

There are special financial supports for childcare providers during the emergency. If childcare provider takes up the financial supports, it allows parents keep the childcare place and not have to pay childcare fees while childcare facilities are closed during the public health emergency.

The difficulties faced by many parents in the reductions of services pre-dates COVID-19 restrictions, but the Celt reader feels they will even less options for parents of babies and toddlers going forward.

“Should crèches be allowed, for business reasons, to cut services? Even though they receive funding and support? Even if the community get out and canvas our politicians to provide more funding they may never put that funding into providing the service for babies and toddlers,” they asked.

It is recognised by professionals in the sector that there is a lack of spaces for toddlers and babies. There's a lot of necessary regulations and administration to be adhered to in order to provide the service.

How the return to work protocols will affect the small pool of providers remains to be seen.