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Sinn Féin outline impending crisis for 1,100 community childcare providers - Ó Caoláin

1 November, 2007

Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Spokesperson on Health and Children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin this morning held a press conference to outline the impending crisis for the community childcare sector due to the government's introduction of the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme.

Deputy Ó Caoláin was joined by Senator Pearse Doherty, Dublin MEP and National Chairperson Mary Lou McDonald and Community Childcare providers from Deputy Ó Caoláin's constituency.

"There is widespread concern and even alarm among community and voluntary childcare providers about the implications of the new Community Childcare Subvention Scheme.

"Nobody disagrees with the stated intent of the scheme which is to make childcare more accessible for low-income parents. Far too many families still cannot gain access to childcare due to lack of affordability. This has serious consequences for children and for parents who wish to improve the lives of their families through part-time or full-time employment.

"However there are very serious problems with the new scheme and this is reflected by childcare providers across the State.

"The application procedure has already placed an excessive burden on often small community childcare services that operate with few staff and feel overwhelmed by the bureaucracy that has landed on their desks in the past fortnight.

"There is a real danger that the new scheme, if implemented in its present form, could lead to a two-tier or even three-tier childcare system. We could have crèches for people on social welfare, crèches for low to middle income families not receiving the subvention and crèches for the elite.

"There are already clear indications that this new scheme will lead to fees being increased significantly for those not on social welfare. It could also lead to crèches closing if they do not have sufficient numbers on social welfare on their books.

"We are calling on the Minister of State for Children Brendan Smith to suspend the introduction of the new scheme, extending the EOCP in the meantime, and pending full consultation with the community childcare sector. Full consultation is crucial. We need to get this right now and not put in place a flawed system that could cause untold problems in the future and would be very difficult to unravel." CRÍOCH

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