Cllr Sarah O’Reilly (Aontú).

Govt must improve childcare provision

Childcare workers in Cavan have been described as “working for a pittance” with councillors calling for action from Government. Cllr Sarah O’Reilly (AON) is claiming some childcare employees work 10 hours a week for €10 an hour and struggle to afford rent, car insurance and other daily costs but “are not entitled to anything”, despite some Cavan parents paying up to €1,000 a month to place one child in a childcare facility.

She put forward a motion at the November meeting of Cavan County Council urging “urgent support and intervention in the early years sector in order to address the shortages that are now at crisis level”.

The Bailieboro based public representative told councillors the wage subsidy scheme put in place during the pandemic was “the most stability workers have had” and she was highly critical of the lack of movement in Budget 2022 announced last month.

Cllr O’Reilly told those at the meeting that Government is the only body that can put in place measures to improve the situation.

“With inadequate government supports, providers do not want to be charging parents additional fees to make up for shortfalls, yet they have no other option to sustain the sector. There is a huge turnover of staff in the sector, which is a degree-led sector. Childcare workers simply cannot survive on the low wages in the sector.”

Cllr Patricia Walsh (FF) supported the motion claiming workers in the sector are “working for a pittance and staff aren’t getting recognition”.

She called for a payscale to be established, similar to those in place for teachers.

Cllr Shane P O’Reilly (IND) said the “childcare sector in Ireland is taken for granted” and that it is “not taken seriously by Government”.

He praised communities like Maudabawn who came together to provide a community childcare facility. He was also critical of slow progress and the perceived lack of will to tackle the issue:

“We’ll be talking about this for 20 years unless the nettle is grasped.”

Cathaoirleach Clifford Kelly (FF) suggested classifying childcare providers as education providers, which would allow for the removal of rates for them. He cited the example of schools, which are exempt from rates. “That would be a step in the right direction.”