The Den Goodbye - Laois childcare provider writes to parents about being left with no option but to shut down

"Totally inadequate funding, staffing crisis, constant requirements for new policies and procedures, new regulations and requirements, and never-ending paperwork"

Conor Ganly

Reporter:

Conor Ganly

Huge demand for new childcare scheme from Louth families

Childcare

Here is the letter Laois childcare provider Órlagh McCrory has written to parents explaining why she has had no choice but to shut her childcare service in Portlaoise after nearly 30 years.

Ms McCrory was among the up to 30,000 childcare workers from Laois and around Ireland who travelled to Dublin on Wednesday to make their voices heard to politicians in the General Election at the ‘Together for Early Years’ demonstration.

Dear Parents,

It is with a heavy heart that I wish to inform you that, after 28 years,  The Den Playgroup will close its doors in June 2021.

 It is due to the loyalty of all the lovely families who have supported us over the years, and who have children booked in with us in the coming few years, that we are giving such advance notice.  This will allow children currently attending The Den to complete their two-year cycle, and the small number of children who are booked in for September are welcome to come for their first year and move on to another service for their second year, or to do both years in another service. Children booked in after this year will have ample time to find a new place.

The biggest strength of The Den over the years, I feel, has been the amazing staff who work with me at The Den. Bridie has been working here for the past 23 years and Perry has been here for 19 years. They are the backbone of The Den. I know that they have always been totally committed, always put the needs of the child first and are so kind and caring not only to the children but to parents and indeed to me at difficult times in my life. I can honestly say that in all the time we have worked together, we have never had a cross word spoken between any of us which is probably some achievement! We all seem to be on the same wavelength.

“Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion.”  For Bridie and Perry, and for me, working at The Den has not been a job, it has been our passion. We love coming in every morning, wondering what amazing things the children will do that day, how they will touch our hearts with their warm hugs and displays of affection, how they will make us laugh. We have taken pride in each child’s achievements as if they were our own, tried to enable them to be the best individuals they can be, tried to comfort and reassure them when they were sad and upset. We often feel that we get more out of our days than the children do- what other job guarantees to bring a smile to your face every day! I would also like to pay tribute to Catherine Langan and Anne Malone who were also once part of The Den team and, of course, Aisling Keane, who is very much part of it now.

We have been truly blessed to have met such lovely parents and families over the past 28 years, many of whom have become friends. Your recommendations have kept The Den going without having to advertise since our early years, and we are truly grateful to you all for this. 

The decision to close was never going to be easy but now seems to be a logical time to re-evaluate. The Early Years Sector in Ireland is at a tipping point. With totally inadequate funding, staffing crisis, constant requirements for new Policies and Procedures, new Regulations and requirements, and never-ending paperwork, our role at The Den has changed. All of these have placed an enormous amount of pressure and stress on staff and is making Early Years Services totally financially unviable.

The amount of work now required to be done during non-contact hours, which is unpaid, is simply enormous. I’m sure you must often think I’ve totally lost my mind emailing newsletters and observations to you at ungodly hours of the night, but this is the only time I get to do them. All of the above has made me realise that I want to stop working before it becomes just a job,  before it becomes a burden before I’m not able to give 100% to the children in my care. 

I have also brought this philosophy into making a decision about my other venture, Chatterbox School of Speech & Drama and I feel that it is also the right decision for me to wind this down too. However as I feel it would be unfair to accept new pupils in September, and it would be financially non-viable not to replace 6th class pupils finishing up this year, I have made another very difficult decision that our end of year show on March 15th this year will be our final show.

Making both of these decisions have been extremely difficult for me. There is probably never “the right time” to wind up two successful businesses that started from a group of 5 children, two of whom were my own, in the front room of my house. My daughter always advises people to find something they love and make a career out of it. Well, I love working with children and I consider myself extremely lucky to have been able to make two careers out of that – The Den Playgroup and Chatterbox. These businesses have become my babies and we all know that it’s always hard to let your babies go.

I feel blessed to have had such a lovely career in The Den and in Chatterbox – I have loved every minute of it and know I will miss them greatly,  but I am sure that I’ll find something to keep me busy!

Yours with extreme gratitude for 28 amazing years,


Órlagh