Budget 2023 has not provided any clarity for the childcare sector and some providers may be forced to close as a result, the owner of a preschool in Dublin has said.
Bríd Corr (67) runs Bambi’s, which is a one-room preschool in Clondalkin that caters for children aged two years and eight months to the age of four or five.
There are currently 44 children attending the preschool.
In Budget 2023, the Government announced that a further allocation of €59 million will go to the recently established Core Funding model.
Almost 4,000 childcare services (90pc) have now signed new state core funding contracts which means that fees charged to parents will remain unchanged from September last year.
Core funding will be allocated based largely on capacity, operating hours and age group of children.
One of the major conditions childcare providers must meet in order to receive the funding is to freeze parental prices at September 2021 rates.
However, Ms Corr now fears that she will have to close her business as the core funding model is not “viable” for her preschool service.
“There’s some people who have not signed up for core funding, they’re on the basic €69 an hour per child per week, they don’t know how they’re going to survive,” she said.
“I’m going to see how it works out for me over the coming year or even for the next couple of months and if I have to give it up, I have to give it up. Your concern is the business is supporting so many families and that’s why everybody is hesitating so much because it’s very hard to close down your business after all this time but it’s becoming more of a nightmare.
“Some people are closing and winding down because it’s not worth the stress and that is awful. You get a budget for everyone else but there is no clarity for us there at all.”
Ms Corr said she is waiting to hear further detail over the coming days on how the additional funding will be allocated.
“We don’t really know enough, I don’t know if there’s any allocation at all for ECCE which is the mainstay of my business. I don’t know whether they have just ignored us or if there’s something in there,” she said.
“It’s too difficult to figure out until we get more detail on it, it’s unclear and the other thing is they’ve given more money to parents which is really brilliant but it’s another administrative layer for us , I’m assuming.
“We will see when it’s explored a bit more, what, if anything. I don’t know if it’s deliberately unclear or we’re just being ignored but the ECCE scheme wasn’t mentioned.”
In its pre-Budget submission, the Federation of Early Childhood Providers (FECP) called for additional funding of €191m for the sector in Budget 2023, to “stabilise the industry and improve outcomes for children, parents, staff and providers”.
Her daughter, Treasa Keegan (40), lives in Celbridge, Co Kildare, with her partner Mike and their two sons, two-year-old Eddie and Dominic, who is four months old.
Ms Keegan works in banking and is an administrator for Bambi’s but is currently on maternity leave. She welcomed the reduction in childcare fees but described it as “a drop in the ocean”. She currently pays €1,200 per month for her eldest child to attend full day care.
“It is an opportunity lost, the department said they’re going to reach their €1 billion target five years ahead of schedule. It’s still way behind what the standard is in Europe, it’s just not good enough. The fees need to come down by €300 or 400 per child and it has to happen immediately,” she said.
“I am really disappointed that it didn’t even reach the €200 mark, there’s no reason why something as fundamental as childcare couldn’t have been better prioritised to give parents a proper break.
“I’ll take the €175 but I’m really disappointed that they didn’t go further, for parents like myself, that’s not going to make the difference of do I return to work or not. €175 a month is not going to change that decision for me.
“This is a drop in the ocean, I’ll take any help I can get but it’s nowhere near good enough.”