Seanad debates

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Pre-school Services


3:00 pm

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Fine Gael)

I am grateful for the opportunity to raise the issue of the need for the Minister for Health and Children to outline to the House the details of the way the Government scheme to provide a child care place for three year old children will function, the payment methods, the number of available places and the level of uptake in the scheme he expects from child care providers. I welcome the Minister of State to the House. He has been here all day but this is an important issue and many questions arise from it.

I welcome the introduction of a pre-school year while recognising the negative impact the loss of the early child supplement income will have on all families, particularly the most vulnerable. I am concerned about some of the practical implementations of this pre-school year considering that in the weeks following the announcement of the scheme, many pre-school providers raised questions and expressed genuine concerns about the scheme. Such concerns included the lack of information on the implementation of the new scheme, the duration of the capitation grant and the payment of top-ups. In particular, service providers questioned the adequacy of the capitation grant in meeting the cost of providing the service and the difficulties some providers will experience in that regard. I am aware there is concern about that in many of the pre-schools and child care services in Lucan and Clondalkin.

I want to read into the record an e-mail I got from somebody who is involved in child care. She states:

I am the owner and manager of a pre-school for the past 7 years. I operate 2 sessions per day, Monday to Thursday, for 10 months of the year (43 weeks). While I welcome the new venture by the government to provide free pre-school education, I am appalled by the manner in which the scheme is being railroaded in without prior consultation with pre-school providers and without due consideration to the quality services we have spent years building only to be undermined and dictated to in this manner.

That is an indication of the concern of people already providing the service. The e-mail further states:

The capitation grant, as suggested, will be provided based on a 38 week service. The majority of pre-school services operate from September to the end of June (43 weeks) and incorporate 4 weeks holidays into their fee in order to pay staff wages. The grant is set at €2,450 and pre-school providers are not permitted to redress the shortfall from [people who attend their services].

Obviously that does not allow for any holiday periods. This woman states she estimates her income will be down €11,000 per annum due to providing a five day service as opposed to a four day one and due to the scheme not allowing for a 43 week provision of service.

These are the two specific issues which my constituent has raised. Will the Minister outline what consultation he intends to undertake with the sector? What will he do about the issue of staff holidays and the longer period of service? The scheme also demands that the provider must have eight children to avail of the scheme. What happens if the provider thought she could fill the places but cannot do so and is down one or two places? How many providers will avail of the scheme? How many places are available now and how many does the Minister envisage will be available as the scheme is implemented? Is the Minister willing to review the details of the scheme to address some of the concerns of child care service providers?


carole Barrett
Posted on 19 Jun 2009 12:25 am (Report this comment)

I am a preschool provider. I will not be taken part in this new scheme. I cannot understand why the government did not give this grant directly to the parent's and leave them with their choice of preschool for their child/children.

I agree with any assistance given to preschool children by any government, but I do not agree with the provider having to avail of it nor do I agree with my school being 'hijacked' to suit the government.
Parent's have a constitutional right to choose the preschool/education of their choice for their children. This scheme will not provide this, because parent's will be forced to avail of the 'free' place provider. Which in turn will leave other preschool to close down, and eventually lead to a shortage of preschool places within the community. But by giving the money directly to the parent's (as they did with the early childhood supplement) they will be free to choose their preschool of choice and providers can continue as they are. (I am tax compliant, registered with HSE and qualified Montessori teacher with many years experience and have my own purpose built school) I believe this scheme to be unconstitutional in every way and will therefore not be signing up to same.

Give the grant directly to the parent's and let them decide what preschool they wish to avail of.

I would also like to know who gave Mr Andrews permission to give my preschool places to parents for free' and in return give me a capitation grant of �64.50! Dictatorship at it's best!!!! Why I wonder, did Mr Andrews not consult with the preschool/childcare representative bodies before dictating this scheme to providers???

I did not incur the expense to build my school, furnish it, for Mr Andrews to come along and basically say, thank you for saving us the job and here is �64.50 to make us look good as a government.

I really hope many providers do not avail of this scheme....any may they give the grant directly to the parents.

Did the goverment not give the grant to the parent's because they would avail of it, and gave it to the schools instead hoping they would not take part and they will have their money back.

I shall now be out of a job and will join the already lengthy dole queues.

mandy kelly
Posted on 20 Jun 2009 12:09 am (Report this comment)

if they give the money to the parents certain preschools will over charge and parents believing they are doing the best for there children will fork out more money to go twards the grant to avail of higher priced fees as the thinking in this country is you get what you pay for,instead of everybody deserves the right to exactly the same start in life, a bit like how the landlords put the rents up so high it was impossible to actually afford anywere to live.
this will prevent that from happening hopefully.And if certain preschools go out of business instead of accomadating the children of this country equally then sadly it will be worth it in the end.Hopefully this sort of set up can make its way into the schools and our healthcare and any other basic need all people rich or poor need to use.THEN WE WILL FINALLY HAVE A LESS DIVIDED SOCIETY

Log in or join to post a public comment.