CORK childcare providers will travel to Dublin early next month to take part in a national protest to highlight what they say is a major crisis in the sector.

Organised by the Early Years Alliance, low payment rates is the dominant reason for taking to the streets of Dublin on February 5.

Federation of Early Childhood Providers Chairperson Elaine Dunne urged the public to support the protest.

“The reason the insurance hike in the sector has hit us so hard is because we are paid so little in the first place,” she said.

“The ECCE grant pays us €4.60 an hour, we only get paid for three hours a day.

“Sustainability is a real issue for providers.”

According to the trade union SIPTU, early years educators earn just €11.45 on average – well below the living wage.

In Cork, a number of childcare providers will journey to Dublin to support the plight.

Mary-Margaret Desmond, who opened Great Beginnings Montessori in Innishannon five years ago, said the pressure childcare providers are under to comply with ever-changing regulations and low pay are a source of intense stress.

“The difficulties that I face are beyond crippling,” she said. “This makes me very sad as I have a great love for what I do as a service provider and a qualified Montessori teacher.”

“There is a large number of services due to close in June because of the lack of funding, unrealistic expectations from Tusla and the massive overload of paperwork brought on by the various schemes we have to deliver on behalf of the government.

“Unfortunately, our sector has received very negative publicity lately with regards to a service in Dublin. This was so disappointing to see but for every badly run service there are ten fabulous ones.”

Over the summer, Mary-Margaret was without pay from June 24 until August 19 and was working relentlessly to re-register her school – a national mandate which Tusla introduced.

“There’s always something additional to comply with, it’s never-ending and it has a huge financial impact,” she said.

One Montessori school which has taken the decision to close because of the stress associated with low pay and incessant new regulations is The Haven Montessori School in Bandon.

Owner Gillian Powell, who has run the school for the last 32 years told The Echo: “My successful Montessori is closing because the profit I make is not worth the stress involved in running a large preschool service.

“My Montessori is closing because three talented staff members left and it is increasingly difficult to get qualified staff.

“The school is fully compliant but I am also highly qualified and I look forward to a career that involves less bureaucracy.

“The work involved in being fully compliant with all the agencies involved means working seven days a week often 12 or 14 hour days,” she said.

Gillian said that she is extremely concerned for the future of the industry if changes are not implemented, labelling it as ‘unsustainable and broken’ at present.

The protest will take place at 11:30am on Wednesday, February 5, starting at Parnell Square.

Source: Echo Live