Comment by Regina Bushell, Chair of Seas Suas – association of independent early learning and care providers – on the meeting of the Oireachtas Special Committee on COVID-19 Response

Seas Suas
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“With less than one week until many early learning and care (ELC) providers are due to reopen, we urge the Committee today, as a matter of urgency, to  address a number of core  concerns with regard  the sustainability of childcare services in Ireland.

“In our  written submission to the Committee ahead of today’s meeting, we outlined the  key issues that must be resolved prior to next Monday.

“The financial support provided by the Government, while welcome, falls short. We cannot address and manage the impact of this unprecedented crisis on the long-term viability of childcare services  with short-term grants. 

“Our sector needs practical longer-term  support to ensure we are viable in the longer term, beyond August – the point at which Government funding support has been signalled to end. In our funding model published, we the sector calculated that funding of €130 million for the six months to the end of this year is required.

“Without a fully functioning childcare sector, the return to work for many and the wider economic revival and recovery will be slowed. 

“Additionally, while the sector prepares to introduce additional  health and safety measures in line with official guidance, we are over-burdened by red tape and administration that is simply not needed. We are being asked to re-register all children, even those with existing contracts who are registered already with Pobal for 2019-2020. We will have to meet requirements for registration for all present schemes and we will also be required to register children again when the current schemes runs out in August. It is an administration nightmare for providers and their staff.

“We urge the Committee to bring these issues to the Department representatives today in order to provide the necessary assurances that will support providers in both meeting the 29 June deadline head on, and also provide the stability needed for these services to stay open in the coming months.

“There were significant deficits in childcare long before the COVID-19 pandemic, but now we have a real opportunity to get the sector back on a solid footing to provide high-quality, professional services to the families of Ireland.” 

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