A PRE-SCHOOL owner warned that more children will miss out on early years education if drastic measures are not taken to combat the deepening childcare crisis.
Owner and manager of Glounthaune’s Generation Education, Irene Heredia Ariño said she has spoken with a number of parents who are considering reducing their child’s hours in pre-school due to inflation and cost of living concerns.
Others are contemplating quitting their careers to look after their children fulltime. With the budget announcement just days away, Irene is pleading with the Government to make childcare accessible. She is also proposing that action be taken to prevent the closure of childcare facilities.
Parents may see their childcare bills slashed by a quarter in the next few months as announcements relating to Budget 23 draw closer. Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman has already pledged to cut childcare fees in half over the next two Budgets.
Irene opened up about the new challenges facing businesses and families alike.
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“I can appreciate why some parents are staying at home,” she said.
"If a job is not sustaining them or meeting that rate of inflation then they have to sit back and have a chat about what their best option is as a family so they are not struggling financially every month. The worry of not being able to meet the same bills that you did a year ago is a huge strain on a person’s mental health.” She explained why more help is needed for parents struggling to remain in the workforce.
“Parents should be supported in going back to work because it’s really positive for children to see their parents being a part of the workforce. Many parents love their careers. They want to develop professionally. Having that option is of great benefit for families and their mental health. There are no disadvantages to kids being at home but at a certain age it’s important that they form relationships with other children. It’s also important that they have a structured environment. Childcare settings are beneficial for children in terms of their social skills and emotional development.” Irene spoke out about the realities of running a childcare setting in the current climate.
“Our electricity bill is now more than our rent,” she told the Echo.
“When the Winter comes it’s going to be really expensive to keep the temperatures in the room at normal levels. While the Core funding - a new strand of funding to early learning and childcare services- is very much welcome and good in principle it needs to take inflation into consideration. We were told that we had to freeze our fees as of last year but the cost of the bills to run a childcare setting in September of last year to this year is completely different.
"This has really impacted the income and the way I have to look at where the money can go every month. I would like for the Government to accommodate better fees for parents without forgetting the high bills that every childcare setting has.”
She said that reducing private childcare fees in her setting is not realistic.
“We really want to support the parents and their families but our hands are financially tied at the moment. I am not the only pre-school and afterschool owner who thinks that the funding needs to be more appropriate considering the rise in the cost of living. We have already put up our staff wages because they deserve proper hourly rates. It’s looking like a challenging year now. The only thing that hasn’t gone up is our private fees. We would like to know that the Government value the work we are doing and the benefits kids are getting from being with other children-both in pre-school and afterschool.”