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Crèche owners struggling to follow public health guidelines because of staff absences due to Covid-19 - survey

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MOST crèche owners are finding it difficult to follow public health guidelines because of staff absences due to Covid-19, according to a new survey.

A total of 61pc of providers said they were experiencing problems complying with measures including play pods, social distancing and appropriate adult to child ratios.

Many said this was because of staff absences while they waited for tests or had to self-isolate, causing them to close or find replacement staff.

In 42pc of cases, providers said they found it difficult to maintain the guidelines due to staff absences while they waited for Covid tests, and in 33pc of cases, they said they were unable to recruit staff.

The survey by early childhood academic, Dr Mary Moloney, found that 78pc of providers are experiencing difficulties hiring staff.

Of these, almost half attributed it to poor pay and working conditions, with another 26pc indicating that Covid 19 meant the sector was high risk and therefore unattractive.

Many of the over 500 providers surveyed said working in the sector is “too much responsibility for too little pay”.

They said recruitment and retention was an issue before the virus but this had been their worst year yet.

“There is no shortage of qualified staff, however early years educators simply cannot afford to stay in their profession when the average pay is below the living wage,” said Siptu head of organising Darragh O’Connor.

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“The government needs to introduce a living wage guarantee and sick pay in next month’s budget.”

It came as a Siptu and Union of Students in Ireland survey of early years students found that just a third plan to work in the sector.

DCU graduate Clare O’Keeffe said students are deeply dissatisfied with the pay, conditions and recognition of their role.

“These students will emerge from college with qualifications but drastic change is needed to retain them in the sector,” she said.

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