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A new cold reality: Crèches 'face crisis in funding'

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Cold reality: Crèche owner Theresa Murphy, with her daughter Esmee, says her business has effectively ‘disappeared overnight’. Photo: Andrew Downes XPSOURE

Cold reality: Crèche owner Theresa Murphy, with her daughter Esmee, says her business has effectively ‘disappeared overnight’. Photo: Andrew Downes XPSOURE

Andrew Downes, XPOSURE

Cold reality: Crèche owner Theresa Murphy, with her daughter Esmee, says her business has effectively ‘disappeared overnight’. Photo: Andrew Downes XPSOURE

A crèche owner has told how the emergency legislation designed to secure the childcare sector during the Covid-19 crisis has wiped out her business overnight.

On Tuesday, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) announced measures to buoy the sector during the enforced closure of crèches.

The new scheme, which includes a 12-week fee exemption for parents, was broadly welcomed. However, some providers say it will create a mass funding crisis.

Theresa Murphy, owner of Spraoi Early Learning Centres, a chain of crèches in Galway and Clare that employs 80 staff and cares for 500 children, believes the rescue package will ultimately lead to the closure of her business.

"The news that staff will receive 100pc of their pre-Covid-19 wages and that parents will not be required to pay fees is very much welcome.

"However, we learned through the media that all scheme payments to crèches will be stopped from this Friday."

Ms Murphy said this came despite an assurance from the department on March 12 that it would continue to pay for all State childcare schemes while crèches are closed.

"This amounts to a complete cut to our income, which would have paid rent, mortgages, and other bills which we have to pay during the shutdown," she said.

"The department has offered a 15pc-of-wages bill payment to crèches.

"However, this will be entirely absorbed as crèches will undoubtedly have to pay staff holiday entitlement at 8pc, as well as employers' PRSI at 11pc approximately.

"This means that there is no money left for crèches to cover their costs until they reopen. Our difficulty is that we will be running a deficit of thousands of euros per week. And the suggestion from the Government that we should get a loan to cover this is totally unsustainable.

"The cost of this will have to be passed on to parents at some point," she warned.

She said the "cold reality" is her business "has effectively disappeared overnight".

In response to the concerns, Children's Minister Katherine Zappone and the department said they have engaged with the sector since the Government decided to close crèches two weeks ago.

In a brief statement, the DCYA said: "The feedback from the sector informed yesterday's announcement."

Irish Independent