A range of State supports are available to early learning and care (ELC) and school-age childcare (SAC) services during the period 1 February to 5 March, including the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), continuation of DCEDIY funding schemes (ECCE, AIM, NCS, and legacy schemes), and a Sustainability Fund. Services may also charge fees to parents whose children are attending, which at this time includes children of essential workers.
In addition to the other supports available, the Covid-19 Operating Support Payment (COSP) is intended to support services that are very reliant on parental fees to remain sustainable during the period of high level restrictions, while meeting the condition of not charging fees for families whose children are not attending the service. The payment seeks to enable services to support parents by not charging fees for children who are not attending, regardless of whether non-attendance is because their parents are not essential workers or because their parents have chosen not to use ELC and SAC services at this time.
Eligibility for the COSP is determined on the basis of transparent, objective criteria, to support ease of administration for a scheme that is expected to operate for a short period of time. The criteria have been selected on the basis that they are likely to identify the services most reliant on parental fees.
The criteria reflect the continued availability of the enhanced EWSS rates (which are estimated to meet 80% of payroll costs or 50% of operating costs of ELC/SAC services), 100% continued funding of DCEDIY schemes for services that receive the COSP and avail of enhanced ECCE funding, and receipt of parental fees for children attending services that are open – the average occupancy level among open services is currently 25%. Closed services have reduced operating costs.
The eligibility criteria for the COSP include that the total value of DCEDIY funding schemes (ECCE, AIM, NCS, legacy schemes) allocated to the service in the week ending 13 December 2020 must be less than 45% of the ‘calculated-income-capacity’ of the service, which is an estimate of the maximum expected total income for the service in the absence of the EWSS. As registered ELC and SAC services are exempt from the income-loss threshold for the EWSS, services that are ineligible for the COSP are expected to have on average 50% of their operating costs met by the EWSS and more than 45% of their costs met by other DCEDIY funding schemes. For services ineligible for COSP, even a very low level of occupancy or zero occupancy would be sufficient for a service to meet its operating costs.
It is acknowledged that some services that are reliant on parental fees may not meet the criteria – it is open to such services to apply for the Sustainability Fund if the service has sustainability concerns as a result of the current restrictions.