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Funding delay prompts fears crèches may never reopen after crisis is over

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Paula Donohoe at her Clever Clogs crèche in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan
 Photo: Lorraine Teevan

Paula Donohoe at her Clever Clogs crèche in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan Photo: Lorraine Teevan

Finance Minister Pascal Donohoe. Photo: PA

Finance Minister Pascal Donohoe. Photo: PA

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Paula Donohoe at her Clever Clogs crèche in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan Photo: Lorraine Teevan

The threat of crèches failing to reopen after the coronavirus crisis ends is growing because a Government bailout has not been rolled out, childcare providers have warned.

Paula Donohoe, of Clever Clogs, in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan, claimed some crèche owners are in dire financial straits since the Government ordered them to close.

Although they still get State funding for schemes they run, she said the loss of parents' fees and overheads such as rent, rates and wage top-ups for staff are hitting smaller providers hard.

She was commenting after it emerged a Government bailout that aims to give crèches the "best shot" at reopening following the crisis had been delayed.

"I've a friend in Cavan who is sick at the thought that she may not be able to reopen even if this deal gets across the line," said Ms Donohoe.

"The €300 a week she would be eligible for under the department's proposal would not cover her rent."

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone has contacted childcare providers to say plans to issue contracts yesterday would be deferred until next week.

The message was issued following a meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe. She said the delay to the scheme was "in order to ensure that there is compatibility with schemes in other sectors".

Under the proposed scheme, crèche owners were set to get their staff's wages fully funded plus a subsidy towards their business overheads.

They would get an amount worth 15pc of their pay bill towards their costs, or €300 a week. In return, they would not charge parents but keep their children's places secure.

Ms Zappone said funding under the scheme will be backdated to April 6 "to account for the delay". The minister encouraged childcare services to register for a Revenue wage subsidy scheme under which they can get funding for 70pc of pay.

"I'm OK until September if funding continues as it is, but my business will be on a very dicey footing," said Ms Donohoe. However, she said she was "disgusted" by crèche owners who may be asking parents for fees for April.

She said she believes the Government is looking down the road at a plan to nationalise services but should help a sector "that's on its knees".

Marian Quinn of the Association of Childhood Professionals said the delay was disappointing and baffling. "There is a threat some crèches will not reopen," she said. "Some are already in a precarious position and €300 a week will not cover their overheads."

Ms Zappone said the Government was working to introduce measures to ensure the free pre-school scheme and childcare will be available "when we emerge from the crisis".

Irish Independent