Community childcare providers from 17 counties gathered in Athlone recently to discuss the various challenges facing the community childcare sector. Providers expressed anger at changes to the subvention for community childcare providers and agreed to have a one-day national stoppage to highlight their concerns. This was the second meeting of the National Association of Irish Community Childcare Providers (NAICCP). At the meeting, those involved in the community childcare sector deplored the level of confusion which has been created by the announcement of the new subvention scheme being introduced by the Minister for Children to replace the EOCP scheme. Des Curley of Forest View, Boyle, was one of the local representatives present at the meeting in Athlone. ‘Many providers are confused and demoralised by the handling of the introduction of the subvention scheme, as well as by the content. We are asking the Department for Health and Children to clarify a number of points. We have been fed on a diet of inconsistent and, at times, contradictory information. For example, some of the community providers have found that the promised transition money is significantly less than they were led to expect. Feedback received from parents suggests that many of them will be unable to send their children to pre-school in the future. ‘We regard the new system as morally wrong, because we believe that it promotes a ghettoised system of childcare. The new subvention system runs counter to stated government policy of promoting quality and affordable childcare, and social inclusion. The NAICCP believes that the introduction of the new subvention scheme will, in the long term, result in non-affordable childcare, less childcare places, and ultimately closure of many community childcare facilities so that more children will be forced to use black market unqualified childminding facilities. ‘We therefore must question the Minister’s commitment to quality, affordable, sustainable childcare. Community providers are already providing childcare service to the state, and, against all the odds, achieving a very high standard in so doing. However, it is unfair to expect that they can do the impossible – continue to provide the level of quality demanded by the state, and also by themselves. The government are indulging in false economy. Quality childcare doesn’t come cheap and existing highly trained staff jobs are at risk. They talk of promoting integration, but are introducing a system, which will run counter to that ideal.’ Strong arguments were made at the meeting that the NAICCP should organise action to convey the deeply held concern to the Minister. However, it was agreed to defer a decision to have a national one-day stoppage. While the meeting focused on serious concerns, a heartening note for the future was provided by he positive attitude, interest and commitment of those present to the future interests of the children.