Thursday, 11 February 2021

Questions (197)

Neale Richmond

Question:

197. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if he has engaged with childcare providers on extending their opening hours to ease the burden on front-line workers and parents working from home; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7617/21]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

Government decided on 6 January that, in order to reduce movement in the population, the ECCE programme would not resume until 1 February. It has now been agreed that the programme will remain suspended during extended restrictions up to 5 March. Other Early Learning and Childcare and School-Age Childcare services (ELC/SAC services) can remain open on a restricted basis, to offer services to the children of essential workers and to vulnerable children only.

Childminders can also continue to provide services to children of essential workers and vulnerable children at this time. A further option is for a household of an essential worker to form a bubble with another household for the purpose of providing childcare.

Essential workers are those that work in the list of essential services published on gov.ie. One parent who is an essential worker confers eligibility on the child to access a service. For the purposes of accessing ELC/SAC, an essential worker may be working from home.

ELC/SAC services are provided by private enterprises, either privately owned or operated by community organisations. While service providers are contracted by the Department to provide services at a subsidised rate to parents, they are free to set their own policies regarding their opening hours and other matters.

I have asked ELC/SAC providers to ensure that a place is available for all children of essential workers within their service. I am aware that providers are making significant efforts to accommodate the children of essential workers and vulnerable children at this time and I welcome this.