The Deputy is aware that the COVID-19 Pandemic has created major challenges for Ireland. The sudden closure of centre-based Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School Age Childcare (SAC) services on 12th March was an unexpected but necessary move to safeguard public health in Ireland.
The Deputy will also be aware that on May 7th I announced new, emergency measures to support essential health workers who are having difficulty meeting their childcare needs. This forms part of Phase 1 of the Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business.
The service will be limited to parents / guardians defined as essential health workers during the Covid emergency.
The delivery of childcare services to this group follows Government plans to lift restrictions gradually and in line with public health advice and recommendations. The scheme is designed to protect children, their families and the childcare practitioners who will offer this new service.
Existing, registered childcare services have been asked to consider signing up for the service and opening as an outreach hub. They have been asked to support essential healthcare workers by offering childcare in those families’ homes.
The initiative is scheduled to begin roll-out on Monday 18 May, subject to a further Government decision re the easing of restrictions currently scheduled to begin on that day.
All services that participate in this initiative will be supported to follow HSE guidance related to COVID-19. Information packs containing essential information and supports have been made available to them. A funding package has been approved by Government to cover staff and provider costs.
In these difficult and unprecedented times, we are all being asked to play our part and my Department and I are grateful that, with the assistance of the early learning and care and school-age childcare sector, we have been able to design a scheme to help our colleagues in the health sector as they perform their critical work. The Department encourages those who are in a position to volunteer to provide the service to consider doing so.