Little Angels is a co-operative venture based in Dundalk. It was established in 2009 as a crèche and day-care facility for children aged 6 months to 14 years. It is an initiative of the over 72 members of Nwannedinamba, the Dundalk chapter of the Igbo Union Ireland. This ethnic association of immigrants from Eastern Nigeria that seeks to promote the socio-cultural integration of the Igbo people in Dundalk and also cater for their need of affordable childcare in the area. As in the rest of the country, childcare costs are a major issue for immigrants in this area and can act as a barrier to entry to the workforce and full participation in the economic life of the country. Little Angels was set up to solve this problem so that Igbo immigrants can seek gainful employment or embark on higher education and training for career enhancement and be marketable in the employment industry.
Earlier in 2010, Little Angels collaborated with Fledglings Childcare and submitted an application for funding. Fledglings Childcare offers a franchise model for affordable, quality childcare, in the not-for-profit sector and was recognized for its work at the annual Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Awards in 2008. In 2009, this joint application was successful and Little Angels received its first grant from the Department of Health and Children to assist its plan to provide affordable childcare based on best practice standards. This grant to an extent has enabled Little Angels to offer additional care services to parents to give them the maximum flexibility to participate in employment and to secure the best possible future for themselves and their children. The individuals involved in setting up this initiative are not only highly committed but also have third-level qualifications and experience of working in childcare. Above all, they are focussed on success.
Little Angels, like other immigrant co-operatives, is confronted by some challenges, one of which is inadequate finance to continue providing quality services to the users of the facility. Since the group got its initial grant from the State in 2009, subsequent grants have been slashed as part of the Government strategy to cut expenditures and make meaningful savings. Again the numbers of parents wishing to avail of the Centres services, largely because of its affordable charges (compared to mainstream childcare facilities) outstrip its stated capacity. The result is that some members who wish to use the facility cannot do so, as children are admitted on a first-come-first-served basis, and this has caused a lot of grumbling, murmuring and disaffection amongst members who cannot use the facility. This is a touchy issue and Little Angels members have been advised by Government officials to put realistic fee structures in place when they receive continuation funding under the Staffing Sub-Measure, so that they will be in tune with other childcare establishments. Such fee structures can take cognisance of the different economic circumstances of the client families. However, as a response to this problem, Little Angels Co-operative Society members have decided to seek additional grants from other funding bodies, so that they can increase the size of the facility and employ more staff, to be able to cater for the needs of members and other interested individuals.