The largest childcare centre in the country faces immediate closure and the loss of 98 jobs if government funding is not made available.
The Jigsaw Centre in Darndale held a major fund-raiser last year, gathering €112,000 in cash. Manager Kelda Barnes said staff have endured pay cuts and pay freezes and the centre has been restructured but there is now no more they can do.
“We can’t stretch it any more and last week we were told no more state funding,” Ms Barnes said.
The Darndale Belcamp Integrated Childcare Service, as it’s formally known, takes care of 250 local children daily.
“We’re open year round from 8.30am to 5.30pm and we serve three hot meals a day to children,” said the manager.
The community child centre costs a minimum €25 a month for a child and a maximum of €145. It’s now calling for €200,000 a year in funding to allow it keep going with community services.
“It’s affordable childcare, that’s why the numbers are so big,” said Ms Barnes.
Not only does it provide childcare to parents but it allows parents to return to work.
“It gives parents a chance to go and get into employment. They say this was our start,’” Ms Barnes added.
Michelle Curley, who was a teenage mother, said the centre allowed her to get back to work. “That creche enabled me to work and I progressed through work, it helped me with that,” she said.
The mother-of-three has just one child left in the centre and as she works in Ashbourne she doesn’t know what she will do if it closes.
Her sister, single mother Sarah McHale, also has her child in the creche and as a result of the service she has been able to re-sit her Leaving Certificate and is now in her second year of a business degree.
Having already suffered severe cuts over the years, the centre is in financial crisis and many parents believe it will cost the taxpayer far more to shut it down than to keep it going.
Lorna Kinsella-Cassan said; “It would cost the state €150,000 more in unemployment benefit payments alone for the 55 staff members for the statutory nine months than the €200,000 needed to keep it open for a year.”
MEP Paul Murphy said: “It is shameful that the various government departments and State agencies who should have a concern in the continuance of this successful project let funding abruptly run out.”
The centre which was set up in 2001, received the highest mark in childcare, the Siolta award, on the same day as the Prime Time investigation into abuse in was aired.
Mr Murphy also said that the closure would a “catastrophic blow to the children, their parents, staff and the whole community”.