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Revealed: Government announces €75m childcare package to prevent providers charging higher fees


 (Stock picture)

(Stock picture)

(Stock picture)

A €75m childcare support package that aims to stop providers from charging higher fees has been announced.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, said a reduced number of children are likely to attend services in the initial weeks after services reopen on June 29.

The support package is designed to enable providers to operate with less parental income, while the costs of providing childcare are expected to increase.

Around 1,800 services normally open during the summer of the total 4,500 childcare services in the state.

Minister Zappone said the package will ensure providers will not have to charge higher fees than they did pre Covid-19, even though the costs of providing childcare will increase.

A condition of the funding measures is that childcare providers must keep parental contributions or fees at pre-Covid-19 rates.

“Many parents need to return to work to support their families,” said Ms Zappone.

“Childcare is essential to this and a critical element in enabling our economy to get up and running again.

“We have clear public health guidance for the childcare sector on how this can happen as safely as possible. We now have a funding model which supports the public health guidance. I believe it supports the sustainability of the childcare sector. It is the first step back towards full capacity.”

She said where services have higher levels of demand, she is asking providers to consider reducing fees for parents who are not using their places during the summer but wish to retain them for September.

The support package includes:

*A Revenue-run wage subsidy scheme will be extended until the end of August for services that reopen on June 29 at a cost of almost €33m.

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It will provide up to 85pc of the cost of wages.

*A re-opening grant of €18m for centre-based providers opening on June 29 and late August. It will be based on the number of children on department schemes pre-Covid-19.

Individual grants range from €1,000 to €10,000.

Services that open on June 29, or within a week of that date, and who are open for six of the eight weeks until August 23 will be eligible for a higher grant than services that reopen in late August or September.

*A capital grant of €14.2m. Centre-based services reopening between June 29 and the beginning of September can avail of this and it ranges from €1,000 to €6,000 for individual services.

*Childminder reopening grants.

A grant of €375, 000 will be provided for childminders, worth €500 per childminder. They must be registered with Tusla or notified to city or county childcare committees.

*All department funding schemes including universal and targeted subsidies for parents will be available from June 29.

The department said in a statement that the measures will run from June 29 to August 23.

They will be reviewed in July and further arrangements will be made for services that reopen in late August and early September.

Siptu said in a statement that the funding model to reopen services will not address the major issues facing the early years sector.

“While the funding announced today should see vital childcare services reopen on Monday June 29 and that is to be welcomed, the current plan falls short for workers in the sector,” said head of strategic organising and campaigns, Darragh O’Connor.

He said despite €75m being pumped into childcare, workers will only be guaranteed up to 85pc of their wages.

“The sector was in the grip of a low pay and staffing crisis before the Covid-19 emergency and this announcement today won’t change that,” he said.

He said the fact that educators earn less than a living wage means there is an unsustainable turnover rate of 40pc. Mr O’Connor said only 16pc of them have a sick pay scheme and those with underlying health conditions face a worrying future.

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