Cork County Council Support Childcare Workers Protest

By Seamus Whelehan


Statutory business was suspended for a time at Cork County Council on Monday (27 January) to discuss a worsening childcare crisis as hundreds of providers struggle to make ends meet.
Thousands of childcare providers, parents and staff are expected to attend a National protest at Dáil Éireann on Wednesday, 5 February.
The march, organised by the Early Years Alliance and SIPTU, calls for Government intervention as a number of childcare facilities face closure as a result of spiralling insurance costs, staff shortages and poor wages.
Sinn Fein Cllr Danielle Twomey, who called for the suspension, said Ireland’s childcare model is not working, with parents paying high fees, workers on low wages and many services struggling with high insurance costs.
Despite qualifications and hard work, early years educators earn just €11.45per hour, well below the living wage.
Ms Twomey said “Insurance increases of almost 300%” and “a refusal by Pobal to pay providers in December” for the Early Child Care Education scheme (ECCE) has put some businesses in a “dire position.”
Last year the Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone, promised early childcare educators financial support when Ironshore Europe DAC withdrew from the market here, leaving just one provider.
The one-off payment was to be paid before 28 December 2019 and ranged from €1,500 to €26,000 depending on the number of children being cared for in crèches and other childcare facilities.
Since Ironshore left the Irish market, insurance costs for many early childcare providers has spiralled, putting those who already operate on a slim margin, in a further vulnerable position.
Cllr Twomey told Monday’s Sitting of full Council that most providers in Cork have yet to receive their full payment promised by Minister Zappone, the largest payment of which is just under €500.
Ms Twomey said the childcare providers are also seeking adequate funding to introduce a living wage for all staff, and the creation of one inspection body to regulate facilities on a graded compliance system.
At present childcare facilities are inspected by 3 different bodies, each with their own vetting criteria.
Cllr Gearóid Murphy, Fianna Fail, who backed Cllr Twomey said the closure of a childcare facility could have a drastic effect on rural areas, where parents may have to drive “miles and miles” to find a new crèche.
Green Party Cllr Liam Quaide said it was time childhood professionals who provide high quality service are paid a living wage.
He said “their work is extremely demanding, and is underpinned by considerable training and knowledge. The quality of that work has long term consequences for our children’s development.”
Cllr Anthony Barry Fine Gael said “staffing costs are a huge problem for people working in the sector, but for the providers the number of inspections on a weekly basis is a huge problem.”
He said hopefully the next administration will seek to resolve the issues.
The Councillors are to write to the Department of Children requesting the incoming Minister to deal with the crisis as a matter of urgency.