Thursday, 21 January 2021

Questions (271)

Bríd Smith

Question:

271. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the reason some essential workers whose children were offered places in creches and who are not taking up the offer of a place for their children are facing penalties from the crèche providers and still being charged for the child’s place; if his attention has been drawn to same; if his Department has had communication from crèche owners and management on this issue; if he will address the matter relating to fees and charges on parents who are not availing of a crèche place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3498/21]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

Early Learning and Care and School Aged Childcare services are typically either privately owned or operated by community organisations. Service providers are contracted by my Department to provide services at a subsidised rate to parents and are free to set their own policies regarding the charging of fees. The current agreements between the Department and providers do not deal with the issue of services charging fees during periods when the services are closed. The relationship between a service provider and parent is a private one based on a contract between those two parties.

If a parent of an eligible child chooses not to take up the service, providers may make arrangements about fees with the parent in the context of their contract. My Department have informed parents that if there is currently no restriction on their access to a service for which they have an agreed contract, the expectation is that fees would still be required. If a parent wishes to change their ELC/SAC arrangements, the contract between the parent and provider will indicate the applicable notice period or conditions.

I am aware however, and welcome that, many ELC/SAC providers have refunded or credited fees for parents who are not accessing services at this time. I encourage all services to take this step, where possible, in light of the significant State supports provided to the sector.