THE owner of a Montessori school in Bandon which is set to close this June, said the current childcare system is ‘flawed and underfunded’ and needs a complete rethink.
Gillian Powell, who has run The Haven Montessori School on Watergate Street for the past 32 years told The Southern Star that she is closing her business this year for these very reasons.
With a staff of seven and catering for 50 children, she said she has informed the parents and her staff of her decision to close.
‘The system is coming crashing down. That’s due to a perfect storm of underfunding, staff retention problems and administrative burden that is proving unsustainable,’ said Gillian.
‘Providers aren’t adequately funded in the first place and they need better grants and secretarial support. Retention of staff is also a huge issue for me because the pay is simply not good enough.’
Gillian, like many other childcare providers nationwide has issues with new Tusla regulations: ‘The new regulations for crèches and childcare providers being introduced by Tusla could see many small scale operators close unless they can receive community or grant aid. Their requirements were always stringent but are constantly changing and increasingly expensive.’
Gillian also believes that the current childcare scheme needs a complete rethink by the Government and that parents should be given more choice.
‘Robust research across the world indicates how damaging group care is for children under two years of age.
Forty hours’ care outside the home particularly in a crèche is bad for these children. 90% of German parents stay at home with their kids and parents here in Ireland should have more choice – give them the choice for the first two years of their child’s life and fund it properly.’
She described the once-off payments of €1,500 to childcare providers by the government announced earlier this month, to help with extra insurance costs due to the withdrawal from one insurer from the market as ‘just a stopgap.’
‘This payment won’t make any difference and I think that the Government wants the small crèches and childcare providers to close and make people go to large scale crèches,’ added Gillian.
She said that it’s possible other crèche providers are contemplating closing, but may find it costly in paying out redundancy to staff.
Meanwhile, Deputy Michael McGrath (FF) has described as ‘astounding’ the hands-off approach adopted by key ministers in the Fine Gael-led government to the escalating insurance crisis.
‘We also know that childcare facilities throughout the country are facing the prospect of closure as the insurance crisis lands at their door,’ said Deputy McGrath.