Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs, Anne Rabbitte TD, says Minister Zappone’s new afterschool regulations will force many afterschool services to close their doors, leaving parents and children without a high-quality afterschool service.

The regulations will require new staff ratios which in some cases are double what most providers are operating at.

Deputy Rabbitte explained:

Minister Zappone has introduced stringent new regulations on all afterschool services without properly consulting the providers of these important services. She is expecting them to be able to find and employ a huge number of additional employees before the new school year begins in a number of weeks. Given the shortage in qualified childcare employees it’s a hugely unreasonable ask.Working parents know all about the importance of these services, which provide a safe and happy environment for school-aged children until their parents finish work. Many of these afterschool services take place in national schools, allowing kids to do their homework, unwind with their friends and participate in afterschool activities.

Deputy Rabbitte went on:

While absolutely acknowledging the importance of having the highest standard of care I do think we need to take a common-sense approach to this. These children will be leaving classrooms where there would have been a teacher-student ratio of 25:1. What the Minister is saying is that there should then be an afterschool ratio of 12:1. This also puts some of the after-school activities in jeopardy.The Minister is taking a non-sensical approach in imposing the same restrictions whether it is junior infants, or sixth class students being looked after. Their care needs are clearly very different, and a one size fits all approach is not in anyone’s interests.

Deputy Rabbitte appealed:

The recent RTÉ investigates programme on the Hyde and Seek creches really hit home the need for high-quality, trustworthy and affordable childcare. We also learned that parents are severely restricted in their childcare choices. If afterschool services are forced to close it will restrict them even further.

and she concluded:

We already know that soaring insurance costs are crippling childcare providers. These new regulations might just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Does the Minister have so little respect for the industry that she did not think it worth her time to seek their views before imposing these regulations? After everything that has come to light in the last few weeks I am disappointed she did not seek to include childcare providers. I am calling on her to establish a fair and reasonable lead-in time for the introduction of these regulations.

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