Many childcare providers are closing their doors for the next three days and a protest is planned for outside the Dáil over a lack of government funding. The action is organised by the Federation of Early Childhood Providers. The protest comes in the wake of more and more facilities being forced to close due to increased financial costs.
The childcare industry has been subjected to years of under investment and the recent cost of living crisis has made the situation untenable. The state currently offers the free Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme, but the funds being given to run them are insufficient, with many facilities saying they are struggling to provide this service. This service is vital, particularly in working class areas where many families cannot afford the fees to avail of creche services.
We need an urgent expansion of core funding to allow facilities to stay open and provide the correct standard of care. It should also be used to decrease fees for parents, provide services in deprived areas and increase the wages of staff.
There is a serious staffing crisis within the childcare sector that needs to be dealt with immediately. Childcare workers are extremely underpaid both in relation to their skills, qualifications and the responsibilities of the job. An immediate increase in wages, terms and conditions is essential to encourage employment within the sector. SIPTU, the union most involved in organizing childcare workers, have correctly called for the immediate introduction of a EUR 15 per hour minimum rate in the sector.
Ireland ranks one of the highest in the EU in terms of childcare costs. The schemes available simply do not suffice. Ultimately, childcare should be completely free and widely available for all. Militant Left calls for the nationalisation of the childcare sector, the abolition of fees, a massive expansion of funding and a decent wage for all childcare workers. Finally, there should be no loss of pay for childcare workers who are available to work over the next three days. This shut down is not being driven by those workers but by their employers.