Playschool funding row: Parents won’t be able to afford places – Flanagan

 If government plans for funding the staffing of playschools are allowed to proceed as they currently stand, then the whole service is facing meltdown as parents will not be able to send their children to preschool, according to Cllr. Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan.   ‘Changes in the system will lead to a situation whereby most parents will not be able to afford to send their children to playschool. Under the new proposed system only parents in receipt of some form of social welfare will get a subsidy. Even then, the fees for those people who are entitled will go through the roof as the subsidy will not go close to covering the shortfall.   ‘Apparently the change in the system is to make sure that any government money spent should go to the most disadvantaged. I understand that under this new system parents who fall outside the subsidy brackets could be faced with fees of up to €150 per week. In other words out of most people’s league. Even those receiving a subsidy could be facing fees of €70 to €80 per week. It does not take a genius to work out that this will mean the end of playschool for all but a few.   ‘In the case of children who have started this year it will mean that they are now facing a situation whereby they will have gone to playschool for one year, under the old system, but will not go next year because it will be too expensive. They will then have to face into national school having taken a year out. Under this scenario children will damaged. It is an uncontested fact at this stage that a pre-school education is most beneficial to children’s development. If this plan is allowed to proceed then society will pay in years to come. When will this country get a government that realises that it makes far more sense to spend money on people when they are young as opposed to when it is too late. In other words when it costs €100,000 per year to keep them in prison.   ‘On October 15th Brendan Smith the Junior Minister with responsibility for children is visiting the county. The service providers in this county, including myself as Chairperson of the Castlerea Playschool building committee, will be looking for a meeting with him to discuss this appalling situation. All I can say is that he better listen to our concerns and do something before he sends us back to the dark ages where a child will have to wait until the age of five before they get any sort of education from the State. This cannot be allowed to happen.’