'We need to increase prices,' says childcare provider amid 'chaotic' free places scheme
A childcare provider claims many providers need to increase their prices to cover the costs of what she calls the 'chaotic administration' of the free pre-school child places.
Nourrice Crèche and Montessori school owner Gillian Murphy finds it extraordinary how quality, private childcare businesses have been left to defend themselves in the fallout of what she calls "flawed Government funding schemes" they have no control over.
"Politicians are slamming price increases, accusing us of abusing the scheme. If this is the case why have some providers not signed up to the Early Childhood Care and Education Programme (ECCE)?" she told the Irish Independent.
She said it was because the ECCE schemes created huge administration costs and were "chaos".
"The financial terms and conditions are not available until October, while the sign-up deadline was August. Also, we have been price fixed at the same unsustainable capitation rate since the introduction of free pre-school in 2010. Many need to increase charges in other areas to plug this gap and cover the cost of the chaotic administration the department are not willing to simplify."
She said she cannot sustain quality child care if she doesn't get extra fees for providing children with extra hours.
"€12.90 for three free hours with no option to charge extra is so far off the cost of providing quality care, even in Wexford, not to mind cities where overheads are higher," she said.
Ms Murphy established her full-time business in Clonard, on the outskirts of Wexford, in 2001, starting off with two children. Now it has grown to 134 children on the books with a waiting list of 12 children.
"The team at Nourrice provide a high standard of care. We have a comprehensive service providing full and part-time care with three healthy meals a day to a wide age band."
Ms Murphy said there was significant pressure to implement the schemes and try to keep on top of compliance for the ever-changing rules and regulations.
"I love childcare, but since the Government introduced free pre-school in 2010 too much of my energy is expended on additional administration," she said.
"I want the childcare burden eased for the parents who use my service but not to the detriment of the quality of the care I provide with managers doing Government administration instead of out on the floor."
She believes the obvious solution is to give the money for the scheme directly to the parent.
"We don't want to see the money, we have never wanted to see it," she said. "That would save much of the administration work and compliance governance we have been doing for free."