Following the Government announcement on 26 January of the extension of the current Level 5 restrictions to 5 March, I have announced new funding measures to support the Early Learning and Care and School Aged Childcare (ELC and SAC) sector up to 5 March.
The pre-school (ECCE) programme will continue to be suspended during these extended restrictions. Other early learning and childcare services can remain open for children whose parents work in an essential service and for vulnerable children.
The new funding arrangements are as follows:
- Services open during this period will continue to receive 70% of the value of ECCE programme funding and 100% of funding provided under other Department schemes (i.e. the National Childcare Scheme (NCS), the Community Childcare Subvention Plus (CCSP), and the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM)) These services can also receive the additional 30% of ECCE Programme funding if they commit to certain conditions that includes waiving fees for parents not using the service and retaining staff where possible.
- Services closed during this period, where the closure is approved by the Department, will receive 70% of the value of ECCE programme funding and 100% of funding provided under other Department schemes (i.e. NCS, CCSP, and AIM). This funding will be conditional on a commitment to waive fees for parents and retain staff where possible.
- A newly designed Covid-19 Support Payment is being put in place to support some providers with a significant reliance on parental fee income to waive fees during this period while remaining sustainable.
Central to the funding arrangements is the enhanced EWSS, which early learning and childcare providers continue to be eligible to access without having to demonstrate reduction in turnover as other employers do. The enhanced EWSS is estimated to cover 80% of payroll costs or 50% of the full operating costs of the average service.
Despite the new funding arrangements outlined above, along with access to the EWSS, some services may be left with a short-term sustainability concerns due to lower income levels arising from current restrictions. Officials within my Department are currently developing a specific strand of funding to support sustainability issues arising out of the impact of full and part time early learning and care and school age childcare services opening only for the children of essential workers and vulnerable children. Services with sustainability concerns arising in January will be able to apply for this sustainability funding retrospectively. Further details will issue in due course.
My Department also oversees a case management support facility through which local CCCs and Pobal work together to assess and provide assistance to ELC and SAC services in difficulty. This support can include help with completing and interpreting analysis of staff ratios, fee setting, cash flow difficulties, as well as more specialised advice and support appropriate to individual circumstances. Any service that has concerns about their viability during the current Level 5 restrictions should contact their local CCC in the first instance.