Thursday, 21 January 2021

Questions (267)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

267. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the approach he is taking to ensure the continued operation of early learning childcare facilities for essential and front-line workers after 31 January 2021; the publication date for the plan; the plan to reopen for all workers; the level of engagement with representative bodies in the childcare sector to date in tabular form, the funding options available to childcare providers after 31 January 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3347/21]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

Between 11 and 31 January, access to early learning and childcare services is restricted to the children of essential workers and vulnerable children. In addition, the resumption of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) pre-school programme has been delayed.

During this period, my Department is continuing to provide funding under its schemes (ECCE, NCS, CCSP and TEC) as long as early learning and childcare services remain open for essential workers and vulnerable children, or have been directed or approved to close.

In addition, all early learning and childcare services remain eligible for support under the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) and are exempt from the turnover rule. With enhanced EWSS subsidies in place until 31 March, EWSS subsidies are estimated to cover up to 50% of the operating cost of these services.

My officials are engaged in detailed planning as regards the arrangements for early learning and childcare services from February onwards.

Progressing the implementation of these plans will depend on the decision to be taken by Government on COVID-19 restrictions from 1 February.

To inform planning in the context of current restrictions and restrictions from February onward, my officials and I have engaged with the COVID-19 Advisory Group, which comprises representatives from the early learning and childcare sector. There has also been engagement with other Group during this period.

The table below outlines recent meetings between my Department and representative bodies from the early learning and childcare sector. The next meeting of the COVID-19 Advisory Group will be held on 22 January.

Date

Meetings with Representative Groups

31-Dec-20

Advisory Group

01-Jan-21

Advisory Group

05-Jan-21

Advisory Group

05-Jan-21

Federation of Early Childhood Providers

05-Jan-21

Childhood Services Ireland

06-Jan-21

Advisory Group

08-Jan-21

Advisory Group

12-Jan-21

Advisory Group

13-Jan-21

Childhood Services Ireland