Childcare services in this country are provided by more than 4,500 private or not-for-profit services. My Department engages with the services regularly through a number of organisations and representative groups.
Insurance costs and risks associated with this area for early learning and care and school age childcare services have very recently been flagged with my Department, and my officials are looking into this and engaging in a process. Information suggests that while insurance costs are a concern, to date they are not as significant an issue in this sector as in others. However, my officials have just been informed that one of the two underwriters currently in the Irish early learning and care sector insurance market has decided to withdraw from this jurisdiction. The broker involved has written to the services affected noting that, although the insurance market is at present restricted in this area, it is working hard to organise a smooth transfer to a new insurer. My officials are carefully examining the current situation and any challenges that may arise in the short to medium term. My Department has not entered discussions with the organisation mentioned, but will consider the suggestion of the Deputy as this work progresses.
Early Childhood Ireland, a national organisation representing about 80% of early learning and care and school age childcare services in the country, operates an insurance scheme for its members. Many avail of it, and my officials will be engaging with Early Childhood Ireland as this work progresses.
My Department oversees a case management system through which Pobal and local childcare committees offer assistance to services experiencing financial or governance difficulties. There have been some individual cases in which insurance costs have been a factor, but it has not been a primary focus to date. These services continue to be offered supports by my Department, tailored to their individual circumstances through a case management process. I will be happy to report back to the Deputy when my officials have completed their consideration of the issues raised.