Belfast Telegraph

Childcare workers demand radical changes as many live in poverty

The Siptu union has published a report looking into the lives of staff in the sector.

The report found many childcare workers are struggling financially (PA)
The report found many childcare workers are struggling financially (PA)

By Cate McCurry, PA

Poverty and stressful working conditions are forcing staff out of the childcare sector, it has been claimed.

There have been calls for radical changes to be made within the sector as staff cite low pay and a lack of recognition and respect in society as major barriers to choosing to stay in the sector.

A major survey, as part of the Siptu union’s Big Start Campaign, found many workers struggle to make ends meet and suffer financially.

The report also warned that if improvements are not made, the wellbeing and financial security of employees and the welfare of children in their care are at stake.

There are currently 25,262 people working in the childcare sector and 98% of them are women.

Darragh O’Connor, head of strategic organising at Siptu, said: “I think it paints a really clear picture of a sector that’s working in poverty.

“It’s the working poor.”

Asked what the sector will look like in five years time if radical changes are not introduced, he said: “The sector will be dismal.

“You’ll have constant turnover of staff and if you want to deliver quality for children, you need to attract and retain well qualified staff, and that’s just not going to happen.

“How long can we expect early years educators to live on poverty wages? Two years, three years?

“It’s simply not good enough to ask mostly women to sacrifice a decent life so that we can go off to work and have our kids looked after.

“That’s an outrageous thing.”

The survey found 94% of childcare workers cannot make ends meet on their pay, while in a sector which overwhelmingly employs women, 66% do not receive paid maternity leave.

We are striving to give each child the best start that we can, all the while the workforce is being underpaid, overworked and totally undervalued Eva Laws, childcare worker

Some 99% of staff have called for a pay scale for the sector, while 96% believe wages should be fully funded by the Government.

The survey was carried out earlier this year by social scientist Dr Amy Greer Murphy.

She said: “Many said that they were currently looking for another job because they were either on temporary or insecure contracts, or generally they felt a sense of dissatisfaction with their workplace.

“A lot felt a sense of insecurity about the future of the sector and about their place in it, and many stated that if the sector didn’t improve within five years, they would leave.

“The majority of respondents stated that they had poor financial health.

“It was difficult to manage on their salaries, they couldn’t cope with unexpected expenses, like replacing a dishwasher at short notice or a car needed a major repair.

“Many of them said they found it hard to make ends meet.”

Eva Laws, who works as a deputy manager at a north Dublin creche, said she will not be working in childcare if improvements are not made within the sector.

Ms Laws, who is also training to be a florist two days a week, said educators like herself are struggling.

She added: “As a sector we’re not taken seriously. We are, in my experience, glorified babysitters.

“Many people are totally unaware of the day to day pressures of working in childcare.

“We’re responsible for each child’s emotional, social, physical and intellectual education.

“Whilst also being cooks, cleaners, first aiders, negotiators, therapists, entertainers, and everything else in between.

“We are striving to give each child the best start that we can, all the while the workforce is being underpaid, overworked and totally undervalued.”

PA

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph