8 November 2007 Edition
Call for action to avert community childcare crisis
BY MÍCHEÁL Mac DONNCHA
FURTHER APPEALS have been made to the Minister of State for Children Brendan Smith to suspend the introduction of a new funding scheme for community childcare facilities amid growing alarm at the implications of the new scheme for children, parents and childcare providers.
The latest call came at a press conference in Dublin where a representative of childcare providers in the border counties said that facilities face possible closure if the scheme goes ahead in its present form.
Deirdre Donnelly, of Farney Community Crèche, Carrickmacross, County Monaghan, predicted that many parents will pull out of the crèche because it will have to double its fees. Like other such childcare facilities, it could be forced to close, resulting in loss of jobs. She said that Farney Community Crèche had provided affordable childcare for a decade. It had allowed many women to take up jobs and training. This is now under threat.
Chairing the press conference, Cavan/Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said there is widespread concern and even alarm among community and voluntary childcare providers about the implications of the new Community Childcare Subvention Scheme. The Sinn Féin Dáil leader and spokesperson on Health and Children stated:
“Nobody disagrees with the stated intent of the scheme, which is to make childcare more accessible for low-income parents. Far too many families still cannot gain access to childcare due to lack of affordability. This has serious consequences for children and for parents who wish to improve the lives of their families through part-time or full-time employment.
“However, there are very serious problems with the new scheme and this is reflected by childcare providers across the state. The application procedure has already placed an excessive burden on often small community childcare services that operate with few staff and feel overwhelmed by the bureaucracy that has landed on their desks in the past fortnight.”
The Sinn Féin spokesperson said that there is a real danger that the new scheme, if implemented in its present form, could lead to a two-tier or even three-tier childcare system. “We could have crèches for people on social welfare, crèches for low- to middle-income families not receiving the subvention, and crèches for the elite.”
“There are already clear indications that this new scheme will lead to fees being increased significantly for those not on social welfare. It could also lead to crèches closing if they do not have sufficient numbers on social welfare on their books.
“We are calling on the Minister of State for Children, Brendan Smith, to suspend the introduction of the new scheme, extend the existing funding scheme, the EOCP, in the meantime, pending full consultation with the community childcare sector. Full consultation is crucial. We need to get this right now and not put in place a flawed system that could cause untold problems in the future and would be very difficult to unravel.”
Deputy Ó Caoláin said Sinn Féin had facilitated the press conference to give community childcare providers the opportunity to express their concerns. He urged other parties and individual Oireachtas members to join the call for suspension of the scheme pending essential changes.
Morning Ireland brings back Section 31
RTÉ News did not cover Sinn Féin’s childcare press conference on 1 November. The next day, the station’s Morning Ireland radio programme covered a public meeting in the Liberties on the issue. They featured a Fianna Fáil TD and a Fine Gael TD who spoke at the meeting but did not even mention the fact that Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh also spoke, as did a Labour TD.
Later on Morning Ireland, RTÉ Oireachtas correspondent David Davin-Power was interviewed on the latest poll results and said: “There hasn’t been much happening on the Sinn Féin front... They’ve been keeping a pretty low profile since the election.”