Thousands of children without daycare after recent creche closures

An industry group said it expects more creches to close in coming weeks. File photograph

An estimated 2,600 children across the country have been left without a daycare or preschool place after the closure of 56 childcare providers in recent weeks.

An industry group said it expects more closures to follow, with reduced capacity for social distancing making many centres unprofitable.

Eighteen businesses in Dublin have already closed their doors, along with eight in Cork, four in Kildare, and smaller numbers in 10 other counties, according to figures from the Federation of Childhood Providers.

Elaine Dunne, president of the federation, said many childcare providers think the State contract being offered to them is “a non-runner”.

“I think it’s only going to get worse. We had huge concerns six weeks ago and now we have even more concerns of services closing down,” she said.

A recent survey by the federation found fewer than one in three creches have reopened since Covid-19 restrictions were eased two weeks ago.

A poll of 868 preschool and daycare operators saw 79 per cent say they fear for the survival of their business – with the federation saying it is worried about the "total implosion" of the sector without more financial backing from the State.

Childcare facilities reopened for certain children on June 29th, following the closure of the sector during the Covid-19 crisis.

A €75 million financial support package for the childcare providers includes grants to help ease the cost of hiring cleaning staff, buying hygiene products and purchasing outdoor play equipment and shelters.