More than 260 providers of private childcare have warned they may have to close their doors after accusing the Government of squeezing them out of the sector.

Businesses providing Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) services say they are struggling with the rising cost of inflation and will not be able to stay afloat.

The Government’s €221m Core Funding programme is due to come into effect in September, but money will only be given to providers who freeze their fees.

However, with the cost of electricity, heating and insurance a major issue, small operators fear the funding will not be enough to save them.

Sonya Duggan, the owner of Little Stars Montessori and Kilminchy School House in Portlaoise, Co Laois, said she feels “angry”.

“We’re just perceived as greedy for trying to run a business,” she said. “Everyone is shouting for nationalisation, but it’s as if they’re trying to squeeze us out and not allowing businesses to make profits.

“Why should I just make do? I put my heart and soul into my business. I’ve invested hundreds of thousands over 23 years and I love what I do. I want parents and kids to be happy. This job is a vocation, but it’s also a business.”

Ms Duggan feels she has no choice but to accept the core funding model, as failure to do so could result in her closing her doors.