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Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) Continuation Campaign

EWSS Continuation Campaign

February 22, 2021

The ongoing lack of clarity regarding the extension and dates for the easing of Level 5 COVID restrictions is having a significant impact on the entire country. In the early years and school age care sector, the impact is specifically acute when it comes to the interrelated matters of re-opening and financial supports. While some level of clarity may be forthcoming with regard to re-opening once the new “Living with COVID” plan is published, there is no excuse for delays with regard to the absence of a solid guarantee for continued financial supports. Our recently published 2021 Childcare Barometer found that there is significant public support (73%) for continued support for the sector while the impacts of COVID continue.  

As you may remember, last September we published a piece of research that explored the impact of Covid on settings. One of the key findings of this report was the fact that many providers were only able to continue operating owing to the support of the then wage subsidy scheme.

“Obviously the main thing is funding, of course (…) I’m 50-50 on whether I can keep this business going and this is even pre-COVID, now with COVID obviously is more difficult, between parents being a little bit iffy about sending their children, I don’t know what my numbers are going to be like, it’s very uncertain. I feel is a very uncertain future, so I’m quite anxious because of that and I just don’t know if we can genuinely continue.” Private, Sessional Provider, Leinster, Commuter area, Summer 2020

Despite repeatedly highlighting the precarious state of the sector, we were very surprised and disappointed that no additional funding was provided in October’s Budget. To make matters worse, there has been no long-term guarantee for the continuation of the sector-specific EWSS from the Minister. This is despite what other Ministers and the Tánaiste have said in the media regarding the prospect of a “cliff-edge” for EWSS payments for other sectors. Given that early childhood care and education is the only frontline service that is relying on government supports to operate, it is essential that providers have certainty about the future of the scheme. This is particularly true as many services may have to operate with reduced enrolments when re-opening does happen due to many parents working from home and nervousness about returning.

With this in mind, we sought to speak to the same Early Childhood Ireland members we interviewed last summer for an update on their situation. The findings were stark. In a survey conducted in early February members tell us how:

“EWSS has made my business viable for the first time in 15 years. It’s the difference. I now realise that this is how work should be….. comfortable. I supplement creche each month with my part-time wages from another job and use my monthly child benefit towards creche expenses.” February 2021, Full Day-Care provider, Connaught

Another member outlines how the EWSS has assisted their setting to remain viable:

“It has given us a lifeline, to continue to operate and maintain appropriate ratios. It has enabled our sustainability this year.” February 2021, Sessional provider, Leinster

We would expect these quotes to resonate with many of our members. What is clear is that short term extensions and drip-feeding information about the extension of support is no longer acceptable. Providers cannot be expected to plan for the coming year when critical supports are extended only in the short term with no coherent strategy.

In the coming weeks, Early Childhood Ireland will be engaging with key stakeholders from across the political spectrum and bringing the concerns of our members to the fore. We will be making the case that the government needs to guarantee the extension of the sector-specific EWSS until the new funding model that is currently under development is implemented. The EWSS can act as a bridging mechanism in order to ensure that settings remain viable while the challenges of COVID remain. We will be keeping you updated on the progress of this campaign in the coming weeks.

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