Claims Longford childcare industry facing "absolute juggernaut"

Longford County Council headquarters

The future of the childcare industry in Longford and across the country were called into question at a recent county council meeting

Longford’s childcare industry is staring at an “absolute juggernaut” as it attempts to get by on government subventions and deal ever increasing red tape.

That was the warning delivered by elected members last week amid fears over the long term sustainability of the sector.

Councillors unanimously agreed to write to Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone in an attempt to aid cash starved operators both at private and community based level.

Cllr Micheal Carrigy said the rising degree of administrative duties now required of childcare providers necessitated a corresponding rise in the distribution of state subsidies.

“The criteria and work that is being put on both private and community based childcare facilities is making it difficult for them to survive,” he said.

“There has to be knock on increase to the grants which are available to them in order to run their service.

“The Minister really needs to look at this and if there is going to be an increased workload put on the providers then the grants have to be increased in tandem with it to make them sustainable.”

As a sitting representative on Longford County Childcare Committee, Cllr Mae Sexton said funding anxieties remained the one abiding bone of contention for members.

Cllr Sexton said other headaches, most notably around the low level of pay afforded to childcare professionals were likewise refusing to go away.

“There is no doubt about it there is a crisis coming down in the childcare sector like we have never seen before and it will be as bad as housing if it is not addressed,” she maintained.

“To make matters worse, these people, after spending three or four years in college and are then asked to go in and work for the kind of money that is being offered for what €10 an hour when you only maybe have the guarantee of 20-25 hours a week.

“No child coming out of third level today is going to opt for that.”

Cllr Martin Mulleady, who was chairing his first meeting since being installed as cathaoirleach said the issue needs to be addressed in writing to Minister Zappone.

“There are rural parts of Co Longford where parents can’t get their kids into childcare facilities,” he said.

“Is a parent going to have to take time off work to mind their child? Having a mother or father that has gone past that stage to mind kids isn’t ideal either.

“It’s good for kids two and three years of age to be in creches because they develop that bit faster.”

A letter outlining the issues raised at last week’s meeting is now expected to be forwarded to Minister Zappone’s department over the coming days.

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