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child's pay Minister says price hike in creche fees ‘not justified’ as parents prepare for return to office

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Minister for Children, Roderic O'Gorman.

Minister for Children, Roderic O'Gorman.

Minister for Children, Roderic O'Gorman.

Minister For Children Roderic O’Gorman has said plans for creches to hike fees by up to 20 per cent in some cases is “not justified”, as the workforce prepares to return to the office.

Parents face significant price rises, with some private providers outlining their plans to increase costs. Insurance hikes of up to 310 per cent, staff salaries and losses suffered in the pandemic have all been cited as reasons for fee changes.

One Dublin chain claimed its insurance rose from €8,700 per year to €36,455 in 2020 and also claimed its landlord introduced a big rent increase.

With workers expected to return to the office once the majority of the population is vaccinated, it is anticipated there may be a scramble for creches. Many had been operating at reduced capacity throughout the pandemic and are calling for clarity on whether the pod system will continue.

Minister O’Gorman said he was concerned to hear about providers proposing to increase costs “at a time when the Government continues to support early learning and childcare to a significant extent”.

“In view of the amount of State support, increases of this nature are just not justified at this time,” he said.

His comments come as Safari Childcare told parents in May it would be increasing fees by up to 20pc in July.

In an email to parents, Safari, which has four creches across Dublin and a new one due to open on Clancy Quay later this year, cited insurance costs, rent costs and a market analysis as reasons for introducing higher fees.

It also said it wanted to protect highly-skilled staff, adding: “Safari Childcare can only shoulder so much of the hugely deserved salary increase costs every year before it must be spread out and distributed into fee structures.”

However, Safari has now told parents this week it will not be introducing the fee change until October or later after the Government confirmed it will be continuing the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme until December, with a new rate being introduced in September. Safari did not respond to requests for comment.

The Irish Independent put queries to a number of childcare providers across the country, with some indicating they will also be increasing their costs.

Paula Guckian, owner of Bright Buttons in Leitrim, said she will be increasing costs for the first time in 10 years in September “due to overall overhead hikes”.

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“I have been eating into any savings. The wage subsidy scheme has undoubtedly been the saving grace. In relation to the fee increase, I would imagine it would be approximately €5 per child per day.”

Janice Edwards, director of Little Einsteins Day Care, said: “I haven’t, as of yet, increased my fees but will probably have to in the coming few months.”

Another childcare owner in Co Wexford said: “Due to the pandemic and having the support of the EWSS, I held off increasing my fees but unfortunately I will have no choice but to do so in September 2021.”

Other creches said they will not be increasing costs.

Parents in the capital are forking out an average of €1,000 a month, but the average in Carlow is €594, according to data published by the Department of Children in 2019.

This was the year when the National Childcare Scheme (NCS) was launched, marking the first ever statutory entitlement to financial support for early learning and childcare in Ireland. To date, more than 105,000 applications have been submitted relating to over 99,400 children, but there are currently only 911 community services contracted to provide the NCS out of a total of 1,200.

Minister O’Gorman said: “The department will be developing a new funding model for early learning and care and school-age childcare to improve affordability and accessibility. An expert group has been progressing this and it is expected that its report will be finalised in November.”

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