I recognise the importance of the early learning and childcare sector for children’s positive development and in terms of supporting the economy to return to normal. On 25 July I announced a package of measures to support the Early Learning and Care and School-Age Care Childcare sector as remaining services reopen in late August/early September.
The funding package will enable providers to continue to operate with lower capacity and extra operating costs. The continued financial support will benefit parents as well as providers as providers will not need to pass on increased costs to parents through increased fees.
The details of the package are as follows:
Part 1: DCYA and Revenue Funding Measures
The funding package for the Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School Age Childcare (SAC) sector from 24 August to end 2020 includes:
- Continuation of all DCYA ELC and SAC subsidy schemes (NCS, CCSP, TEC) and resumption of the ECCE Programme at existing capitation and subsidy rates, including ECCE Higher Capitation;
- Access to the Revenue-operated EWSS. This will cover an average of 38% of the costs of individual services.
- A sustainability fund will be accessible to providers (not-for-profit and for-profit) who can demonstrate that the other measures are not sufficient by themselves to enable viable operation of their business.
- The cost of the funding package to 31 December is estimated at €87.4m EWSS and €211m for Department schemes and sustainability. This totals €298.4m.
Part 2: Temporary changes to administrative procedures
- In addition to this funding package, my Department has introduced, on a temporary basis, added flexibility on attendance rules due to the likelihood in greater variability in patterns of usage (see below). This will assist providers to maximise income and reduce costs.
- That NCS will allow for 2 hours variation in attendance against registration per week without triggering a report. This is not 2 extra hours per week in terms of registrations; it is a fluctuation against normal attendance patterns which is exceptional to the current environment. Providers will revert to actual attendance levels when the emergency levels are no longer deemed to be required.
- For non NCS: A 30 minute variance tolerance per day per child; e.g. if the child is being picked up at 4 hours 45 minutes attendance, this will enable the crèche retain the full-time rate. The purpose of this is to facilitate staggered drop-ins/pick-ups necessary to avoid clustering of parents/children at those times. This is expected to apply to non-ECCE services only.
- Both these measures are exceptional and will last until end 2020. The situation will be reviewed at that time; record keeping, attendance tracking reporting arrangements and compliance facilitation remains in place for the duration.
Part 3: Other Supports Available Across Government
The July Stimulus includes other supports that ELC and SAC services may be eligible for, depending on the specific circumstances and eligibility criteria, including:
- The Credit Guarantee Scheme
- The 6-month waiver of commercial rates
- The Restart Grant for Enterprises
- The early carry-back of trading losses for previously profitable companies
- The new income tax relief for self-employed individuals who were profitable in 2019 but, as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic, incur losses in 2020
- Legislation for the previously announced warehousing of tax liabilities
- Liquidity and enterprise investment measures provided via MicroFinance Ireland and LEOs
The above is in addition to the €14.2m Capital Grants and the €18m Reopening Support Grants that have been made available to services and which the deadline of 28 August for application applies.
My Department oversees a Case Management process through which local CCCs and Pobal work together to assess and provide support to early learning and care services. This can include help with completing and interpreting analysis of staff ratios, fee setting and cash flow, as well as more specialised advice and support appropriate to individual circumstances. Pobal co-ordinate the overall case management process with the CCC administering initial, and on-going, case management assistance.
Case Management support is available for all services. Support is available to help services remain open if it is an option they would like to consider. Any service that believes they may require support should contact their local CCC in the first instance. Even in cases where a service decides they cannot remain open, Case Management support can still be provided to aid an orderly wind down and if possible, the transfer of the service to an alternative provider.
In relation to the particular childcare facility raised by the Deputy, I understand that payments to the service have been put on hold due to their current listing on the CRO as not of "Normal" status which is a prerequisite for payment .
It is normal procedure to put services with this status on hold until they have filed their accounts and thereby return to “Normal” status. Once the service meets the conditions set out to them in relation to regaining their “Normal” CRO status, the Department will release the funding due to the service.