Childminders say coronavirus support cash ‘insulting’

Childminders have spoken out after they were offered “insulting” support payments by the Department of Education to help with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 27th July 2020, 5:48 pm
Registered childminder Shauna Duffy with her sons Keelan and Christopher
Registered childminder Shauna Duffy with her sons Keelan and Christopher

Shauna Duffy, a registered childminder based in Omagh in Co Tyrone, said she was “disgusted” by the lack of support available to her and other self-employed childminders reeling from the financial impact of the pandemic.

A £10.5 million package of support for the childcare sector opened for applications yesterday with some day care providers eligible for thousands in government support.

But the chief executive of the Northern Ireland Childminders Association (NICMA) has said the support offered to her members is an “insult”.

Patricia Lewsley Mooney, whose organisation represents around 1,700 registered childminders, said the estimated support to NICMA members amounts to around £150 per month.

“We need to make it clear the sector’s disappointment regarding the amount awarded to childminders,” she added.

“Childminders continued to deliver tirelessly for key workers and now even in recovery as they push towards full capacity they have the burden of financial debt.”

Ms Duffy, a 45-year-old former special needs assistant who became a registered childminder in October 2018, has been left with no income because of the pandemic.

Before the coronavirus lockdown in Northern Ireland, she cared for children from two families.

But when the pandemic began to take hold in the middle of March, the children’s parents decided against childcare due to the virus.

“Overnight I was left with no families or kids,” she said. “I had no income coming in. And on top of that my husband was put on furlough, and he has now become redundant from his job.

“I wasn’t eligible for the HMRC grant for the self-employed because I will have only been registered for two years by October and didn’t make any money in my first year – it cost me over £3,000 to set up my business.

“I’ve had to get a bigger car, a seven-seater, for my work and to tax and insure it but it hasn’t moved from the street in four months. But these sort of things still have to be paid out.”

She continued: “They reckon there will be £150 per month for us, who are key workers and were able to help a lot of staff in hospitals and shops to go to their jobs.

“They are treating us like glorified babysitters.”

Education Minister Peter Weir has said the Childcare Recovery Support scheme is aimed at ensuring “as many providers as possible can open to assist parents returning to work”.

Mr Weir also said that the support – covering the period July 1-August 31 – will allow for the continuation of the Approved Home Childcarer Scheme “aimed at enabling parents to have their childcare needs met in their own homes”.

Mr Weir added: “My department has developed proposals to assist the childcare sector as they begin to reopen.”