Early Childhood Ireland calls on the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to stall expansion of new operators delivering the ECCE scheme until a clear plan has been developed which takes account of current level of oversupply of childcare places, with an estimated 31,500 vacant places nationwide
Injunction to prevent or stall further expansion of the scheme is being considered by some members
Through a letter to Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr. James Reilly and a meeting with the Interdepartmental Group, Early Childhood Ireland has presented figures on the current oversupply of preschool places, with an estimated 31,500 vacant places nationwide, stating that:
“Every county is showing a significant level of current over supply of childcare places… with 61% of all vacancies in rural areas. (Pobal 2014)
“The Department of Education and Science (DES) would never build a school without knowing that it had a long term need for x number of school places in that area. Equally, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) cannot on the one hand depend on early childhood settings to run the ECCE scheme for them but do so in such a way which drives them into an unsustainable business model.
“Further, there is reasonable growing concern about the entry of schools into the scheme. As set out in a recent DES discussion document, schools are opening ECCE rooms, many with scant regard to the existence of other settings in the local area. There’s an unspoken expectation regarding future enrolment. We have both anecdotal and factual evidence of schools displacing existing services and the question of unfair competition is raised.
“Without a strategic, long term need for expansion of the number of ECCE places, it is insupportable for the DCYA to accept applications for new entrants to the ECCE scheme in that area. The DCYA depends on existing operators to work in partnership with them to deliver the ECCE programme. To welcome new entrants, and thereby potentially drive existing operators out of business, or into an unsustainable enterprise where they can neither pay themselves nor their staff properly, is not the hallmark of partnership but the opposite.
“We are aware that some of our members are so concerned about potential new entrants to the ECCE scheme in their local area and the ensuing impact on their livelihood that they are considering an injunction to prevent or stall same. This will cause further expense on already hard pressed people and organisations and can be avoided.”