Thomas Pringle TD

Closure of Convoy afterschool facility highlights crisis of childcare provision in Donegal


“Fine Gael’s solution to throw money at parents will not address childcare needs. This Government has done nothing to support vital local businesses like Smart Steps” says Pringle.

Thomas Pringle TD – 22 Jan 2020


Independent TD for Donegal Thomas Pringle says the planned closure of Smart Steps afterschool facility in Convoy on the 28 February signifies a crisis in the provision of childcare in Donegal.

Deputy Pringle and his team spoke with the owner of Smart Steps, Rebecca Fleury, to discuss the situation facing afterschool care in Donegal.

“I have been in touch with the facility and am sad to see such an important service for working families being threatened with closure.

“Small local businesses like Smart Steps are an important aspect to the provision of childcare services in Donegal and particularly for afterschool care which has been largely neglected by Fine Gael.

“Afterschool facilities like the Fleury’s offer childcare solutions for the community and within the community so that working families in rural Ireland can get to work without having to uproot their children during the day. They have been filling a void in childcare services for children of school age. Most of the State supports and funding goes towards early pre-school years while older children’s care needs are left out. Some older children end up in creches as a result which disrupts their development.

“Recent cutbacks by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, along with high rents, rising insurance costs and staff retention issues, mean more of these services are closing down in Donegal and across the country. Hard pressed working families are then left with their childcare needs unmet. In the short term we need to support local businesses and address rent, insurance and staff costs directly as well as assisting families that face difficulties paying for childcare.

“There are currently seven state agencies that are involved in regulating childcare services. For small businesses, providing afterschool services in Donegal, this is unsustainable. I want to see these different functions merge into a new dedicated state childcare agency, and ensure that it is properly resourced. Government policy has, to date, failed to distinguish between the needs of pre-school and school age children. A dedicated and well-funded agency should streamline childcare policy and support various types of childcare appropriate for children of different ages.

“Fine Gael’s solution is to hand out a once-off payment to all families which will just increase the costs of childcare as it will be absorbed by the service provider. This approach will do nothing to target parents who can’t afford childcare or their specific childcare needs.

“We need to change the system from the inside rather than throw money at it for votes” concludes Pringle.