Sunday 18 August 2019

Childcare crisis: 'I don't have the option of falling back on granny - this is going to affect us'

Jennifer Murphy. Photo: Don Moloney
Jennifer Murphy. Photo: Don Moloney
Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

A working mum-of-three has been told by her crèche there will be no after-school places for her two eldest boys from September because of new staffing ratios being introduced by the Government.

Jennifer Murphy, from Annacotty, Co Limerick, said the new regulations, whereby childcare providers must now have one staff member for every 12 school-aged children, are being brought in without any consideration for parents.

Added to the shortage of crèche places for babies highlighted by the Irish Independent this week, she said it is contributing to a "perfect storm" in the childcare crisis.

She was told last week that her crèche will no longer provide after-school care for children in third class and above. It means while her daughter Zara (4) will have a place when she starts school in September, her sons Adam (9) and Nicholas (11) will be left with none.

"It's a crèche they've been attending for years. My first boy was there since he was 14 weeks old, my second since he was 16 weeks old.

"The crèche is a home away from home for them at this stage," she said.

Tough decisions: Georga Dowling in Child’s Play crèche, Newbridge, Co Kildare. Photo: Tony Gavin
Tough decisions: Georga Dowling in Child’s Play crèche, Newbridge, Co Kildare. Photo: Tony Gavin

Read more here: 'Fewer places and higher costs' under new rules

She has contacted other crèches in her area looking for places for the boys and all said they were full.

She said the new ratio will end up forcing parents out of the workforce.

"I work full-time. I also do quite a bit of travel. My husband works very irregular hours, including some nights. I don't have the option of falling back on granny. So the crèche was absolutely crucial to enable both of us to work.

"If I can't get some form of accommodation, I'll have to look at going part-time. But with the type of job I'm in, I don't think that's realistic. The ratio is being brought in without any consideration for the impact it will have on parents."

Meanwhile another mum, Miriam Morgan, from Limerick, has been told that her elder daughter (9) will no longer be able to attend after-school at her crèche from September due to the introduction of the new ratio. Her younger daughter (6) will still have a place. She said some 15 children have been affected in her crèche and she has been unable to find an alternative place.

"The whole idea was to make childcare more accessible for all, but obviously that isn't happening," she said, adding crèches want to focus on the State-supported ECCE scheme. "The minister (Katherine Zappone) has no realisation what the impact of the regulations will be."

Crèche owner Georga Dowling has said she is considering reducing the number of her after-school club places or increasing fees due to the introduction of new staffing ratios. She said she fears "parents are going to lose out" and some will no longer be able to afford to send their children to after-school.

She runs Child's Play Early Education Centre in Newbridge, Co Kildare, and has two after-school clubs, one session with 65 children and a second with 50 children.

The children range in age from five up to 13.

She currently has one staff member for every 17 or 18 after-school children.

"In pre-school, where the age range is one to three years old, the ratio is 1:11, but for a 12 or 13-year-old it's 1:12. That was the first big red flag for us.

"This hasn't been thought through," she said.

Irish Independent

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