New childcare regulations are likely to result in a reduction of childcare places, training places and employment opportunities, according to Longford Women’s Link (LWL) CEO and Longford County Childcare Committee Chair, Louise Lovett.
The Childcare Regulations 2016 stipulate that practitioners without a full QQI Level 5 Award will no longer be included in the Adult:Child ratios.
This will have a significant impact on the Childcare Community Employment (CE) activation programme, which is overseen by the Department of Social Protection and, in Co Longford, sponsored by LWL.
“Up to now, unqualified or partially-qualified CE Childcare participants could be counted as adults for the purpose of ratio compliance,” Louise explained.
“This is no longer the case. Therefore the only options are to hire additional staff or reduce childcare places. There is no additional funding to hire additional staff.”
At an average salary of €23,000 the additional cost to 11 crèches this September will be €150,000 and €300,000 the following year, increasing year on year unless there is real investment made, Louise added.
“Without this investment many of those services participating in LWL’s scheme have indicated that they will have no option but to reduce capacity.
“The participants who are already long-term unemployed/disadvantaged and who have just commenced or are midway through their training will not be in a position to continue, so where do they go? Back on the live register? At what cost?”
In addition to the impact on crèches, there will be a significant and disproportionate impact on women, according to Louise, given that of the 1,874 people participating in the childcare programme nationally just under 93% (1,736) are women.
Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran and Deputy Robert Troy have been advocating on this issue with Minister Katherine Zappone, while Minister Leo Varadakar visited LWL in late 2016 to discuss the situation.
Unfortunately, says Louise, there has been no progress so far, despite LWL putting forward a number of potential solutions to reduce the impact of the new regulations.
Minister Zappone recently announced an additional allocation of one million euro to provide additional support to crèches – this amounts to just €2,000 per crèche.
“Are the relevant departments and agencies really going to wait until services start reducing capacity or closing completely before there is real, meaningful engagement?
“We have already had one local closure in a very disadvantaged area and the main barrier to reopening it is an unwillingness to provide a sustainable funding model, which will take account of the complex issues involved in providing a service in such a disadvantaged area.
“We need a coordinated, cohesive campaign to get the urgency of the crisis facing the sector taken on board,” she concluded.