The parents of children attending the Scallywags Creche in Togher consider the new service offering made by the operators of the childcare facility to not be a genuine attempt to reopen the creche.
Despite previously announcing the closure of the creche with immediate effect, a new reduced service was offered to parents late last week. Many of the regular services offered pre-lockdown have been stripped away, meaning parents remain angered and frustrated at their situation.
The creche closed suddenly last month when 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.
A public meeting and then protest was held at the creche last month, attended by a number of TDs, Senators and local councillors as parents outlined their dismay at the sudden closure of the creche.
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.
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, continue to look for 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 from the same family; Michael, Philomena and Peadar Lynch. Andrew Sullivan is the fourth director.
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.
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An email was sent to parents of children who had been attending Scallywags prior to lockdown last week, outlining a much reduced service – reopening on August 31.
It offered no provision for children requiring full day care while the breakfast club, baby room and toddler room would not be provided under the new service options. Additionally, the ECCE would run from 9.30am to 12.20pm only.
Speaking to LouthNow.ie, Cllr Colm Markey, who is among the parents affected by the closure and proposed reduction in service, said that bar the emails outlining the new service, there remains no engagement from the directors in relation to the long term future of Scallywags.
“There has been zero engagement. We have had no contact with anybody other than emails sent to parents. There has been no willingness to engage at all,” he said. “Anyone who has tried to make contact with them have had no joy. We have requested meetings but they are not willing to meet either.
“Parents who are working, the service being offered will not allow them to go to work. It won’t deliver.”
Cllr Markey says some parents have indicated they will avail of the reduced services on offer. “Some people are going to avail of the services but the services will prove very difficult to avail of them. People are not going to be able to drop their kids off at a time that is realistic. And what are they to do at 12.30pm when their child needs picking up?
LouthNow.ie understands that the Concerned Parents of Scallywags Creche are awaiting a response from Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman, who they wrote to last month with their concerns over the governance at Scallywags and the stripping away of services so vital to the community.
“The service isn’t practical,” Cllr Markey continued. “The service isn’t remotely close to the service that was being delivered previous to the announcement of the closure. There’s an effort to blame the parents for this but the parents only raised the questions when the creche was closed. To try and blame parents for that is disingenuous.”
Speaking to LouthNow.ie, one parent explained that the announcement of the resumption of services was considering a piecemeal and not genuine attempt of providing the creche service as required by the local community.
In a statement issued last Friday, the Concerned Parents of Scallywags Creche said, ‘All along we were campaigning for a continuity of service, and once again we have been let down. These are not creche facilities, and are a long way from what people of this community handed over their parish hall for, when services are dramatically reduced from its intended purpose.
‘We will endeavour in our task to arrange a meeting with the relevant personnel to allay the concerns of the parents wishing to use this once fantastic childcare facility and get some sort of an answer.’
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.’
LouthNow.ie have reached out to directors of Scallywags Creche comment.