SCORES of early childhood providers and after-school clubs around West Cork are closing to take part in the February 5th national childcare protest in Dublin.
And while staff acknowledge the inconvenience this will cause to parents, they insist they’ve no other choice as they’re overworked and underpaid.
In similiarly worded letters sent to parents by frustrated staff at various playschools in the region they say: ‘The average wage in the sector is currently €12 an hour and we are not paid by the Government for holidays or for training days. We are also deducted money if a child shows a pattern of non attendance for sickness or lateness. If a child is out sick one day for four weeks in a row the Government takes back the funding, this does not happen in primary schools.’
The workers have set up a new alliance which is calling on the government to give them a living wage of €12.30 an hour; to develop a funding model that supports affordable and accessible childcare for parents, high quality for children and sustainability for providers; and to set up one single inspection process. At the moment facilities are inspected by several groups including Tusla and the Department.
Jeni O’Connell of Skibbereen’s Yellow House Montessori added: ‘There are increased financial pressure and administration demands on services, yet there has been no increase in capitation. To put it in perspective, when the Early Childhood Care and Education grant was first introduced 10 years ago the weekly standard capitation rate was €64.50, it is currently €69 – an increase of €4.50 in 10 years which is €15 under the rate of inflation.’
‘We feel we have no other option but to stand up for children, parents and Early Years Teachers,’ she said adding that parents of their children have been very supportive.
Ilen River Playschool, also in Skibbereen, posted on their Facebook page: ‘Imagine this … It’s the works do, or an anniversary dinner. You get the reliable teenager, who babysits for you. She arrives at 9pm. Your child is already asleep, so she sits by your fire, and watches your TV. You maybe even left her some biscuits and tea/coffee. You get back at 12 midnight. Everything is quiet, and you give her €20. She puts it in her pocket and leaves. Everyone is happy.
‘Next morning you take your, now wide awake, three-year old to play school from 9.30am to 12.30pm (or in my case 9.30 to 1pm). The owner is qualified and well experienced in childcare and has prepared quality, educational, fun, and interesting activities, having bought suitable equipment, furniture, toys, with her own money. It is free for you, which is good. But the government think that fair pay for the owner for the 3 and a half hours is €13. This does not go into her pocket, as she has to pay qualified staff, rent, heat and light, insurance, and all the other costs of running a playschool. There are strict regulations to be met, which are added to each year. Reams of paperwork to be done. She even has to pay €40 a year to be inspected.
‘So, when electioneering candidates knock at your door, please point out the absurdity of how a 16-year-old gets more for sitting with your child, than qualified professional playschool providers do, for caring for and educating them at playschool.’
Staff will march to the Dail on Wednesday February 5th and are calling for parents to show their support by joining them.