Eight organisations who work with vulnerable families, have written to the new Minister for Children, Roderic O'Gorman, warning that difficulties in accessing childcare may lead to "families losing their incomes and their homes".

Focus Ireland has launched a campaign called #ChildcarePreventsHomelessness.

The CEOs of National Women's Council of Ireland, Society of St Vincent De Paul, Barnardos, One Family, Treoir, Dress for Success and the Children's Rights Alliance also signed the letter.

It states that "serious challenges remain in respect of childcare"... and says the purpose of the letter is to "highlight the danger this puts working parents in...".

It also asks the Minister to work with his cabinet colleagues to "extend the temporary wage subsidy scheme for workers unable to return due to childcare obligations, continue the pandemic unemployment payment for parents who can't work, and to issue strong guidelines for employers to remain flexible around the care obligations of parents".

In the longer term it calls for "further investment in delivering crucial social infrastructure, such as a public childcare system and housing".

The majority of the country's estimated 4,500 childcare facilities close for the month of July and August.

Of the remaining 1,800, Early Childhood Ireland believes in excess of 1,600 have reopened.

However, under public health guidelines, staggered opening times may apply, which working parents must work around.

Many summer services have also been cancelled due to the pandemic.

The letter also says that "help from grandparents and relatives, which provides childcare to half of Ireland’s families in ordinary times, is another impossibility for many as we continue to fight the risk of Covid, particularly in relation to older and vulnerable people".

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Policy co-ordinator for Focus Ireland, Rosemary Hennigan said they have seen challenges around childcare "spiralling into family homelessness...countless times".

Ms Hennigan said employers needed to understand that everything had not "gone back to normal" and that many still face significant challenges in balancing work and childcare.

"What we really want to do is prevent the reopening of the economy coinciding with an increase in family homelessness, so we're trying to get out ahead of that with this campaign."

The letter to the Minister states that "lone parents, who already make up a disproportionate number of homeless families", are most at risk.

"With 86% of lone parents being women, this is also a significant gender equality issue."

Karen Kiernan, CEO of One Family, which provides supports to one parent families, told RTÉ News that its helpline is "receiving calls every day on this issue".

"Parents are being asked to go back into the workplace but they are not able to get childcare for [these hours]...so they are being offered work, they are unable to take it up, so they are in a catch 22," Ms Kiernan says. 

One woman, who is a lone parent of two children, told RTÉ News that the reopening of the economy had actually made things more challenging for her.

Michelle (not her real name) worked throughout the pandemic as a healthcare assistant.

Her three-year-old's crèche closed and school finished abruptly for her eight-year-old.

He mother, who was young enough not to need to cocoon, and who was not at work due to the pandemic restrictions, was able to step in to help.

However, this week her mother went back to work. 

"My three-year-old has a crèche space, but [for] my eight year old I have no childcare," Michelle explained, "her childcare is only opening in August and that leaves me with eight weeks to find somewhere or technically be out of a job".

Michelle is also unsure for how long she will be able to keep her three-year-old in crèche as it has informed her that it may no longer offer a financial support scheme that she relies on, the Community Childcare Subvention Plus or CCSP Scheme. 

Michelle will be able to benefit from the National Childcare Scheme, but this will mean she will have to pay an additional €150 a month, something she fears she will not be able to afford.

"I pride myself in being able to provide for myself and my two kids... I don't know what's going to happen, am I going to have to leave my job?

"I've worked all my life since the age of 14. I just don't know, its really worrying."