Saturday 21 September 2019

Parents face €3k rise in Oireachtas creche fees

Leinster House (Stock picture)
Leinster House (Stock picture)
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Leinster House workers are about to get a very real understanding of the childcare crisis - with fees at the Oireachtas creche to be hiked by nearly €3,000 a year.

A change in arrangements between the Oireachtas and a third-party company that operates the creche has led to the massive increase, the Sunday Independent understands.

TDs and senators have access to the facility but the majority of users are Leinster House staff and civil servants who are regularly forced to work during late night Dail sittings.

Parents have received a notice in recent days alerting them to "a number of changes" that will require increased rates from March 1.

Worst hit will be parents of toddlers who will see their monthly fee rise by a massive €227 a month, from €685 to €912. This is after the universal childcare subsidy of €83 that is available to all parents is deducted. The fee for a baby will jump from €730 a month to €912, an increase of €182.

And parents with children in Montessori will see their bill rise from €620 to €792, an increase of €172.

In a letter to parents, the operators of the facility, Kids Inc, blamed the Houses of the Oireachtas for the extra charges.

The creche does not get State funding but the Houses of the Oireachtas did provide accommodation and utilities free of charge.

The facility has three playrooms, four toilets, a kitchen, a changing room and an outdoor play area. However, Kids Inc said it is now being asked to pay for "rent, rates, light and heat, cleaning, phones, maintenance, including replacement of existing equipment as necessary".

"Regrettably in order to cover these costs it is necessary to increase the fees payable for creche places from March 1," the letter said.

Sources indicated that the deal between the Oireachas and Kids Inc may have changed amid concerns that the lower rates could have been perceived as a benefit-in-kind for tax purposes.

All 29 spaces are understood to be filled with a waiting list for new children.

One parent, who wished not to be identified, said late-night sittings made Leinster House an extremely difficult workplace for parents with young children.

In midweek the Dail can often sit past 10pm with some staff member expected to work up to another two hours to complete official reports.

Kids Inc, which has six other creche facilities in Dublin, did not reply to queries for price comparisons with its other centres.

Normal operating hours for the creche are from 8.30am to 6.30pm but there is also a late-night service which is charged at an extra €12 per hour.

It is open all year round, except bank holidays and over Christmas.

A spokesperson for the Oireachtas said the setting of rates was an issue for Kids Inc.

"The awarding of the contract to Kids Inc followed a public procurement (tender) process and has been awarded on a "licence" basis which is in line with revenue requirements," she said.

Ceann Comhairle Sean O Fearghail previously told the Sunday Independent: "I personally appreciate the importance of having family friendly work practices but the work practices here are anything but family friendly."

Sunday Independent

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