THE manager of a northside pre-school has voiced concern about the future of Cork’s childcare sector following yesterday’s Budget 2021 announcements.
Elga Holbrook, who manages Baile Beág Creche in Newbury House Family Centre, said that the upkeep of control measures in childcare facilities will crucify many in this sector without help from the State.
She also expressed her disappointment that the government failed to reference childcare workers and creche owners in its announcements yesterday.
A survey by Siptu’s Big Start initiative revealed that just 16% of childcare workers have access to paid sick leave.
Ms Holbrook added that the low incomes of those working in the sector should have been addressed by the government. “The pay doesn’t reflect the hours and difficulties of the job. Staffing is going to be very difficult.
“Unless this is a vocation for someone they are not going to be working in this industry.”
Early Childhood Ireland also criticised the government’s failure to provide more long-term investment. In a pre-budget submission Early Childhood Ireland had called for a 0.5% increase in Exchequer spending on childcare by 2023.
“It had been well flagged that this would be the Covid-19 and Brexit budget and we welcome the continued Covid-19 supports for childcare settings; however, our sector has been in crisis long before the pandemic and yet here we see another year’s budget pass us by without sufficient investment or any plan to do this,” Chief Executive Teresa Heeney said.
“The Covid-19 crisis has demonstrated how vital the childcare sector is to supporting the wider economy but it has also exposed just how vulnerable it is to any wider economic instability.
“Professional staff continue to struggle on low wages in an unsustainable sector and parents continue to pay the highest fees as a percentage of take-home pay in Europe.
“We are relieved to see the Employment Wage Support Scheme extended for the childcare sector, but in the grand scheme of challenges that providers have been facing for some years now, this is a short-term sticking plaster at best.”
Ms Holbrook said the childcare industry is now ‘down to the wire’.