On 10 June 2020, I announced a major funding package to facilitate the reopening of early learning and care (ELC) and school-age childcare (SAC) services. In accordance with the Government Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business, and guided by the expert advice of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC), ELC and SAC services can resume from 29 June. I am pleased that Government have committed a €75m package of funding for reopening services over the summer months. This substantial investment recognises the important role that the ELC and SAC sector plays in the societal and economic infrastructure of the country.
The new funding package contains four significant elements:
- A once-off reopening support payment for DCYA-funded providers opening between 29 June and early September.
- A once-off COVID-19 capital grant for DCYA-funded providers opening between 29 June and early September.
- Continued access for eligible providers to the Revenue-operated Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS)
- Resumption of DCYA ELC and SAC programmes. NCS, CCSP and TEC will be available again for children attending ELC and SAC services from 29 June.
This funding is available to both community and private providers, so long as they meet the eligibility criteria.
In developing the funding package, I recognise that a reduced number of children are likely to attend ELC and SAC services in the initial weeks of reopening. This funding package is tailored to allow providers to operate with potentially less parental income and to assist in meeting the possible costs associated with complying with public health requirements.
The funding package will also ensure that ELC and SAC providers will not charge higher fees than they did pre-COVID-19. This will benefit parents and children returning to services.
Services experiencing difficulties for any reason can contact their local CCC for support. The Department oversees a Case Management process through which local CCCs and Pobal work together to assess and provide support to early learning and care services.
Financial supports, which may also be accessed through the Case Management process, remain available for community services presenting with the kinds of sustainability issues that arise in normal times. While both Community and Private services play a vital role in their communities, financial supports are currently targeted at the Community Sector.
A detailed set of FAQs was published on 12 June to ensure that providers are fully informed of the new funding package. Further information will be provided in the coming weeks. My officials will ensure that the application process will be as straightforward as possible.
A key policy priority for my Department is the sustainability of the ELC and SAC sector and hence it has and continues to work intensively to support services to re-open after COVID-19. The reopening funding aims to support providers to reopen, staff to remain in the sector, parents to resume work, and children to benefit from quality ELC and SAC.