Thursday, 11 February 2021

Questions (196)

Neale Richmond

Question:

196. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if the return of children with additional needs to crèches is a priority for his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7616/21]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

On 26 January, Government made the decision to extend the suspension of the ECCE programme and to continue to restrict access to other early learning and care (ELC) and school-age childcare (SAC) services to the children of essential workers and to vulnerable children. The decision to postpone resumption of the ECCE programme and to restrict access to ELC/SAC services only to children of essential workers and vulnerable children has been taken in order to minimise the movement of people at a time of elevated levels of infection of Covid-19 in the community, whilst at the same time providing a service for those who most need it. It is currently planned for these arrangements to be in place until 5 March. This timeframe remains subject to review in the context of the evolving public health circumstances.

During this period of extended restrictions, my Department has committed to continuing to provide AIM (Access and Inclusion Model) funding to ELC services. In addition my Department has asked that services in receipt of AIM funding reach out to children who were benefiting from targeted AIM supports and who are currently at home.

To help parents and ELC services to support children of pre-school age who are at home at this time, my Department recently launched a Pre-School at Home Hub which provides a range of activities for all abilities to support and encourage children’s interests and to keep children playing and learning at home. The Hub includes specific activities for children with additional needs. More information on this resource can be found at https://first5.gov.ie/parents/pre-school-at-home.