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Budget plea Cloud of uncertainty hangs over creches 'due to underfunding and staff shortages' 

Early Childhood Ireland is reiterating a plea it made in its Budget 2022 submission last month for the State to more than double funding to the sector by 2028

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A cloud of uncertainty hangs over the future of thousands of creches across Ireland as they reopen today, according to Early Childhood Ireland.

The umbrella organisation representing 3,900 early childcare providers said ongoing problems with retaining staff and uncertainty over demand for their services are among the issues confronting the sector.

"The question in people's minds is 'what is the world going to look like at the end of September?'," Frances Byrne, Early Childhood Ireland's director of policy, told the Herald.

The organisation is reiterating a plea it made in its Budget 2022 submission last month for the State to more than double funding to the sector by 2028.

Despite an unprecedented allocation of €574m for the sector in 2019, Ireland is still at the bottom of the list among OECD members when it comes to State support for early childcare, Ms Byrne said.

"Even with an increase in funding of 140pc, we were coming from such a low base historically," she added.

Before the pandemic, the sector was struggling to retain staff, who are generally on minimum wage despite often being university graduates.

In May, Early Childhood Ireland published an editorial on its website based on a recent staffing survey which found that "recruitment and retention of staff is now the main challenge facing the early years sector".

As the economy begins to open up again, creche operators are concerned about the level of demand for placements due to the number of people who may still be working from home, have relocated or are on reduced hours, Ms Byrne added.

"If the numbers of children drop, it has an immediate impact on staffing," she said.

Creche operators have been lobbying their local TDs to highlight their concerns over staffing and viability.

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