Childcare provision was one of the sectors almost immediately thrown into crisis by the outbreak of Covid-19 this year - but its challenges have been apparent for some years now.
Of the many factors that disrupted employment during the pandemic, the closure of childcare facilities was a major one.
The impact of the shuttering of creches in early March was compounded by the inability of childminders to provide services since nationwide social distancing policy came into effect. Those parents who could still carry out their roles remotely, or essential workers who were still permitted or required to travel to their employment, were left trying to juggle caring for their children with work duties.
The picture on the side of the providers was no less grim. Some childcare facilities, already under pressure from high costs and difficulty of retaining staff, almost immediately reported concerns about long-term survival. Thousands of childcare workers, already struggling in one of the lowest-paid sectors, were put into temporary layoffs. Early Childhood Ireland reports some confusion and concerns about government supports aimed at the sector.
The economy’s dependence on childcare solutions that are reliable, affordable and sustainable has been thrown into stark relief by the crisis.
When it is time to ease the lockdown for those still with a job to go to, is it possible for Ireland to find a childcare system that works for both parents and providers?
HELP US INVESTIGATE
We want to take stock of the failings of the childcare system over the past few years, both as a business concern and for parents and their children. We will focus particularly on those challenges which pushed the sector to breaking point during the Covid-19 crisis, including costs and the level of State support.
Using a combination of interviews, company record analysis and an examination of other key measures of the economic fallout in the sector and for parents, we will build a picture of the toll that the pandemic took on the childcare sector.
Building on those insights, we hope to explore alternative childcare structures, funding models and provision in other states, and find out if there are lessons to be learned on how to build a more resilient and reliable childcare system for Ireland’s future.
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