Paula Donohoe of Clever Cloggs Creche

Low creché fees locally, but sector becoming ‘unviable’

Cavan and Monaghan are amongst the cheapest monthly creché fees in the Republic, a national survey of 220 private establishments revealed this week.

Fees in Co Cavan are €700, while in Co Monaghan they stand at €340 - the lowest in the country, according to the The Irish Independent.

In nearby counties, fees vary with costs of €420 in Co Leitrim; €800 in Meath; and €680 in Co Longford.

The highest in the country are in south Dublin where parents pay a full-day fee of €1,578 per child - a difference of just over €1,200 when compared with the fees in Co Monaghan.

The survey also established the west and north-west are significantly cheaper compared with the rest of the country.

Around 70% of the surveyed crechés provide half-day care, the most expensive in Wicklow starts from €600 up to €623, followed by Offaly with €600 and Westmeath at €480.

The cheapest half-day care was found again in Monaghan, with parents paying at least €160 and up to €380.

The second most affordable half-day care fees are in Dublin city with crechés charging from €258 to €588.

Similar prices can be found in Co Roscommon where fees range from €260 to €550.

Paula Donohoe, who runs Clever Cloggs Creché in Ballyconnell, warns the childcare sector in rural Ireland has become unviable. She told The Anglo-Celt there is a “very serious” recruitment and retention crisis that hasn’t been addressed by Government and “time is running out”.

“When the Government brought in its new core funding, it also locked us into a pay freeze and now, even though more funding was allocated in 2022, I find myself running my business on 2017 fees,” she continued, before adding that as a direct result of that the 0-3 years service in the sector is barely viable.

“The other massive issue centres around recruitment and retention where there is an actual crisis. This has been brought about by historical low wages and a requirement for high standards in qualifications. It’s an extremely responsible job yet we are expecting people to carry out their role every day for €13 or €14 an hour.

“The government is spending half of what its EU counterparts are spending on childcare and that is the single biggest problem in the sector - government investment. We need to put real wages in the pockets of the people who work in childcare.”

Ms Donohoe says the difficulties in the sector are also impacting the domestic workforce, many of whom are women who find themselves unable to return to work because they cannot access the childcare services needed.

“As a society we can’t activate the workforce while we have constraints in our childcare sector,” Ms Donohoe explained. “I know there are crechés in Cavan that have the space for more children but they cannot recruit staff and while I believe the government has found a solution to affordability for parents, it has not done so with regard to viability of service. We are bleeding and haemorrhaging staff because the government will not reward them for the amazing work they do. It really is shameful.”