Cavan/Monaghan Fianna Fáil TD, Brendan Smith has again called on the Government to provide much-needed additional financial support for the childcare sector.

“This sector, as a result of Covid-19, faces new and additional difficulties in ensuring the continuation of existing services and, indeed, in some areas childcare places had been in short supply for some time.

I appealed again to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs through Dáil Questions to secure adequate investment in this sector in view of the concerns about capacity problems in childcare from September 2020. Social distancing requirements will also result in the need for additional accommodation provision.

It is essential that sufficient resources are put in place to support parents, staff, community and private providers to ensure that children are not deprived of a childcare place. A clear roadmap in relation to state investment is needed” stated Brendan Smith TD.

Minister Zappone stated in her reply to Deputy Brendan Smith’s Dáil Question:- 

“I am acutely aware of the particular impact the pandemic and the emergency measures have had on the Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School Age Childcare (SAC) providers. I am also very conscious of the importance of the ELC and SAC sector for positive child development and in terms of supporting parents to return to work to boost our economy.

The Deputy will be aware that the Temporary Wage Subsidy Childcare Scheme (TWSCS) was developed to address sustainability issues in the sector. This scheme builds on top of other Government supports available through Revenue, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and elsewhere.

I can confirm that by 5 May 2020, 3,733 providers had signed up to participate in the TWSCS, which is 83% of our providers. The new Government wide package of measures for the sector across my Department, Revenue and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection exceeds the State investment that was previously provided to the sector and compensates for the loss of some of the sector’s parental income. The objective of this volume of investment is to ensure that we retain as much capacity as possible in the sector so that early education and childcare services can resume after COVID-19 and support child development and economic recovery.

There are also a number of sustainability supports currently available to childcare providers. Expert advice on business and sustainability issues are available from Pobal and City/County Childcare Committees for all services, whether community based or private operators.   Financial supports are available for community services presenting with sustainability issues following a financial assessment by Pobal.  My Department has begun to consider whether this sustainability funding can be extended to private services during the pandemic.

Every year a number of services close. The average number closing per annum over the last three years was 150, but their childcare places have been replaced and indeed capacity has grown at a steady pace. COVID-19 however has presented us with major challenges and this is why my Department worked hard to develop the TWSCS. We will continue to work with the sector to try to maintain as much capacity as is possible in these very difficult circumstances.

Work has now begun on the phased re-opening of the sector as part of Government’s Roadmap. The sector has identified six representative organisations to participate on a DCYA Advisory Group to analyse how re-opening can best be facilitated and capacity restored whilst ensuring the public health and safety of children, families, childcare providers and their staff.

My Department has made considerable investment in the early learning and care sector in recent years. I want to preserve the fruits of this investment for children, families and our valued ELC and SAC workforce and ensure that, when COVID- 19 has passed, we will have retained as many services, staff and places as possible” concluded the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in her reply to Deputy Brendan Smith.

5.449 – Brendan Smith