Under the current Covid-19 restrictions, financial supports continue to be available to the Early Learning and Childcare (ELS) and School Age Care (SAC) sector, notably the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS). EWSS is an economy-wide enterprise support for eligible businesses in respect of eligible employees. It provides a flat-rate subsidy to qualifying employers based on the numbers of eligible and paid employees on the employer’s payroll; and it charges a reduced rate of employer PRSI of 0.5% on wages paid that are eligible for the subsidy payment.
ELC and SAC services registered with Tusla received an exemption from the EWSS turnover requirements. This additional benefit exempts providers from demonstrating a decline of 30% turnover to be eligible for EWSS. Furthermore, the rate of subsidy the employer will receive per paid eligible employee under EWSS was enhanced on 20 October 2020 in response to nationwide level 5 restrictions and will continue to be made available during this period.
Under the enhanced rates, the average ELC and SAC service with EWSS will have approximately on average 80% of payroll costs covered. This equates to approximately 50% of the usual operating costs of the average service – allowing them to operate sustainably with lower occupancy rates and higher delivery costs due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
My Department is continuing to provide all ELC and SAC subsidy schemes at existing capitation and subsidy rates during the current Level 5 restriction until the end of January. These include the National Childcare Scheme (NCS), Community Childcare Subvention Plus (CCSP) Saver Programme, Training and Employment Childcare (TEC) Saver Programme and the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme. My Department will continue to pay these subsidies in respect of children who can no longer attend while the current Level 5 measures are in effect, due to current restrictions where services are provided to children of essential workers and vulnerable children only.
Despite beneficiary schemes funding continuing to flow from the Department, along with access to the EWSS, some services may be left with short-term sustainability concerns due to lower income levels arising from current restrictions. Officials within my Department are currently developing a specific strand of funding to support sustainability issues arising out of the impact of full and part time early learning and care and school age childcare services opening only for the children of essential workers and vulnerable children. Further details will issue in due course.
My Department also oversees a case management support facility through which local CCCs and Pobal work together to assess and provide assistance to ELC and SAC services in difficulty. This support can include help with completing and interpreting analysis of staff ratios, fee setting, cash flow difficulties, as well as more specialised advice and support appropriate to individual circumstances. Any service that has concerns about their viability during the current Level 5 restrictions should contact their local CCC in the first instance.