Parents of children attending the Scallywags creche in Togher staged a protest on Saturday morning at the closure of the childcare facility earlier this month. It is understood that the creche has cash reserves of €450,000, leading staff and parents to believe the business is more than viable to continue.
Staff were informed, via text message, on Monday July 6 that the creche and its after school service was to close, leading to the loss of up to 14 full and part time jobs in childcare and administration roles. A day later, approximately 40 parents were notified, also by text, that the creche was to close. Scallywags is run by the Togher Community Project Group, a limited not-for-profit company since August 2000. The Togher Community Project Group is also a registered charity.
It is understood An Garda Siochana have launched an investigation into the matter. A corporate governance investigation may also be launched.
According to the Companies Registration Office and the Charities Regulator, the Scallywag’s accounts showed retained earnings of €53,000 in the 2017/18 financial year and the limited company has -approximately – a staggering €450,000 in cash reserves. The Concerned Parents of Scallywags group say that these accounts, plus a range of Covid-19 related supports available, mean the creche is financially viable to continue.
Originally, the board of management of the creche had blamed the effects of the pandemic for the sudden closure, which has left the community in mid-Louth reeling.
Speaking to LouthNow.ie, one parent said, “There’s €453,000 lying in the account of a local community development group. There was a lack of disclosure.”
On Saturday morning, a protest was held involving parents, grandparents, children and community members at the parochial hall at Boicestown, Togher. Among those in attendance were Deputy Imelda Munster as well Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd and Labour’s Ged Nash. Senator Erin McGreehan also attended, joining local councillors Hugh Conlon, Pearse McGeough and Colm Markey, himself a parent of children attending Scallywags and a member of the Concerned Parents of Scallywags group.
After the protest, a mini-graduation ceremony was held for children who are leaving Scallywags to begin primary school in September. The ceremony had previously been delayed by Covid-19. Parents had requested access to the building to hold the ceremony for the children indoors but, while the request was initially granted that permission was refused once it became clear a protest had been arranged beforehand. Instead, the mini-graduation was held at the vehicular entrance to the property.
Parents say they were not consulted or given any prior warning that the creche could close and now the community, facing a situation where many families will be left without locally available childcare, want answers. No parent is on the Board of Management of the creche nor are any parents directors or trustees. The Board of Management currently consists of four individuals – three of whom are family members.
The Togher Community Project Group currently holds a long term lease on the parochial hall, which has been the permanent home of the creche since it opened. A survey conducted by parents suggests that at least 30 parents intended enrolling their child at the creche in the 2020/21 year.
Speaking to LouthNow.ie, Cllr Colm Markey said parents’ focus was on reopening the creche and ensuring continuity of service. “Financial matters are not an issue. In terms of enrolment, we did our survey and there’s plenty of demand for places.”
Cllr Markey said that the parents had contacted the Louth County Childcare Committee, who assured them that Covid-19 could not be the reasoning for the closure as they offered assistance and solutions in regard to sustainability, recruiting staff and reopening post-lockdown.
The Louth County Childcare Committee is a Company Limited by guarantee funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to support the implementation of the National Childcare Programmes at local level.
“It is a service the community needs,” he continued. “It’s a registered charity and a not-for-profit company and there’s €450,000 in the bank. The creche is shutdown. A certain number of governance issues have to be asked. They are a registered charity, having to comply with charity law, comply with the director of corporate enforcement – the ODCE.
“The people who use the service have no say whatsoever,” he added. “People need to act. Our primary aim is to get the creche open. Our secondary aim is the corporate governance.”
Cllr Markey said that the parents group intended to meet with the directors, former directors, landlord of the building and politicians in the county to bring the matter to a resolution. LouthNow.ie have contacted Scallywags Creche comment.
The Scallywags website describes the creche as one that aims to provide the highest quality of childcare. ‘We apply this ethos to everything we do. From our buildings to our people – our early learning programmes to our nutritional menus. Scallywags is designed to provide the best possible care for your child, in a safe and loving environment,’ it reads.
The Charities Regulator website says the the Togher Community Project Group was established to ‘promote and operate a community development programme, which will act as a catalyst for community development for the community at Togher in the county of Louth and surrounding areas, with a view to promoting their social, economic and cultural welfare and general benefit and particularly to empower specific disadvantaged groups to effectively participate in a programme of personal and social development.’