Crèche crisis prompts calls for childcare action

By Aideen O'Flaherty

THE manager of a local crèche has said she doesn’t see “how there will be any crèches around in a few years” if changes aren’t made to the sector, ahead of her attendance at a national protest next week where childcare workers will be protesting about issues including low pay.

Jayne Sherlock, who is the manager of the Little Fairies Crèche and Montessori at Tallaght Cross, and the 11 other staff members of the crèche, will be taking part in the protest on February 5 as part of the Federation of Early Childhood Providers, to highlight a number of issues in the sector.

Little Fairies 01 compressor

Staff from Little Fairies: Jayne Sherlock, Siobhán Mahon, Rachelle O’Byrne, Mara Carabel, Amy O’Toole, Robyn Barry, Sophie Creighton and Rachel McMahon

Spiralling insurance costs, the re-registration of all crèche facilities before Christmas, problems with the new National Childcare Scheme and employees leaving the sector are some of the issues that are faced by Ms Sherlock and her colleagues.

Ms Sherlock told The Echo: “There are a number of reasons why we’ll be protesting, but the main thing is that we want to be respected for the work we do on the educational side of things.

“Other issues include a big insurance problem – there’s only one insurer left that covers crèches, and now our insurance cost has trebled.

“Before Christmas, there was re-registration of all crèches, so we had to cover costs for architects and fire certs to get that done.

“There’s the new National Childcare Scheme, which is great for parents, but there’s a lot of paperwork and admin for us to do, and that’s taking us away from our work with the children.

The system is not fit for purpose – the owner of Little Fairies, Aine Byrne, had to do paperwork on Christmas Day to make sure the crèche would be ready, and people who have a passion for early years education are leaving the sector because of low pay.

“We’ve been inspected by so many regulatory bodies, like Túsla, Pobal and the Department of Education and Skills, but their reports all contradict each other. Everyone has had enough.

“We need to have a sustainable framework in the early years sector, if we don’t get one, then I don’t see how there’ll be any crèches in a few years’ time.”

The protest, which is being held by the Early Years Alliance, is being backed by trade union SIPTU.

The union’s Head of Organising and Campaigns, Darragh O’Connor, stating that the national childcare model is “broken” and that there is a “low-pay crisis” and “emerging staff shortages” within the early childcare sector.

At the protest, the Early Years Alliance will be highlighting its Election 2020 demands for the sector, including “the development of a funding model that supports affordable and accessible childcare for parents, high quality for children and sustainability for providers”, and a living wage for all childcare workers.

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