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Minister Zappone announces decisions and guidance to support the reopening of childcare services

Minister Zappone announces decisions and guidance to support the reopening of childcare servicesDCYA main logo

From Department of Children and Youth Affairs:  Published at: 29 May 2020

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone, today announced a number of developments to assist childcare providers and parents plan for the reopening of services on June 29.

Minister Zappone welcomed expert guidance provided by the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) written specifically for the childcare sector.

The guidance, developed in consultation with her Department, focuses on a “play pod” model. The “play pod” model restricts interactions between closed groups of children and adults as an alternative to social distancing, which is not possible with young children. The purpose of ‘play-pods’ is to limit the number of people a child has contact with, to facilitate tracing, and to support close, positive interactions between children and their adult caregivers, like in a key-worker system. This system will also reduce the amount of contact adults have with each other. Where possible, there should be two adults in a ‘play-pod’, to allow breaks without need for floating staff. The maximum size of a ‘play-pod’ will be confirmed in the coming days.

Services will now be asked to apply the guidance to their setting and determine what capacity they may offer. It is expected that a significant amount of capacity will be available in individual services that reopen in the summer, subject to, for example, their space, room layout and staffing availability. Whilst there are 4,500 Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare services in the country, fewer than 2,000 of these normally remain open in July and August.

The HPSC guidance developed by their Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control Division (AMRIC) on 'Infection Prevention and Control guidance for settings providing childcare during the COVID-19 Pandemic' was agreed by NPHET’s Expert Advisory Group this week and will be published on the HPSC website today. As services reopen, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs will keep the operation of the guidance under close review and take appropriate updated action as required.

The Minister also announced which children would be eligible to resume full or part-time childcare services from 29 June. Whilst initially the Government Roadmap had indicated that services would resume only for the children of essential workers, this has now been widened. Subject to local capacity, services are encouraged to support:

  • Children of health and social care workers, other frontline workers, childcare practitioners and parents who need access to childcare in order to return to work.
  • Vulnerable children sponsored under the National Childcare Scheme(NCS) (for example, children who are homeless and Tusla referrals) and children funded through legacy childcare schemes who are experiencing poverty, disadvantage or child welfare issues.
  • Children with disabilities who previously attended part or full-time early learning and care, including those preparing to start school in September.
  • Children previously registered in childcare services on March 12, whose parents continue to need childcare for employment or training purposes and who were assured that they would retain their place through conditions attached to the Department’s Temporary Wage Subsidy Childcare Scheme (TWSCS). If capacity issues emerge, priority should be given to the children of essential or frontline workers.

Childminders will also be able to resume looking after children in the childminder’s home from June 29, while complying with HPSC advice.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs has been engaging intensively with a number of organisations representing the childcare sector, through an Advisory Group. It is preparing a range of additional guidance and resources to assist the sector to prepare for reopening. These will start to issue in the coming days and continue over the 4 remaining weeks before opening.

Speaking after today’s Government meeting, Minister Zappone said:

“My Department is delighted to have this detailed health guidance from the HPSC to help services plan for reopening. I am also very appreciative to the many representatives of the sector on the Advisory Group who have assisted with the planning to date and who will continue to assist with further resources over the coming 4 weeks.”

The Department has conducted research to ascertain the level of demand among parents to assess the level of demand from parents for childcare services. IPSOS MRBI carried out a survey of 563 households with children under the age of 15 years. This was conducted from 22 – 24th May 2020.

Preliminary data has revealed a number of important findings in relation to parents’ childcare arrangements during the COVID-19 restrictions, and their plans once restrictions are eased in line with the Government’s Roadmap. Key findings include that:

  • Prior to restrictions, over half of respondents (56%) cared for their children in their home, with 27% availing of centre-based Early Learning and Care or School-Aged Childcare. A further 18% had the support of grandparents, while 15% used childminders for their childcare needs.
  • Unsurprisingly, since restrictions have been in place, the majority of parents (97%) have reported caring for their children at home.
  • While 27% of parents were availing of centre-based care prior to restrictions, looking ahead to when restrictions are initially lifted, 13% of parents intend to return their children to centre-based care.

Acknowledging the findings, Minister Zappone noted:

“The voice of parents is key to how we move towards the phased re-opening of childcare services. They will make choices in the best interests of their children and their families. Understanding their intentions and concerns will allow my Department to plan with greater precision, addressing concerns parents may have.”

With the support of Pobal and Better Start, the Department is also currently conducting research among Childcare Providers across the country.

Whilst demand for services may be lower than it was in March, some working parents who were using childcare services before the closures on March 12 will be reassured to know that they may now have the option to return to the service.

The Minister is strongly encouraging service providers and parents to make contact with each other so that the level of demand and supply for places from June 29th onwards can be known.

Minister Zappone said:

“For the sake of children, families and our economy, I hope that those childcare services that normally operate over the summer will be able to resume their service on June 29th. This is essential so that parents can get back to work. This is a national effort. The Trojan efforts of our frontline workers have assisted us this far. I know that all of those who can play a part in getting our economy on a recovery path will do so. It is also very important that vulnerable children will be able to access early learning and care services, as soon as they are permitted to reopen. Children and families are at the heart of our plan. Re-opening childcare will be as child centred as possible and as much risk as possible will be mitigated. The safety and wellbeing of children and enabling them resume social interaction and play with their friends is what we are focused on.”

​PIP Notification - TWSCS Payments

Dear Service Provider,PobalLogo

Please be aware that this week’s payments have been made to all services who accepted the TWSCS funding agreement and submitted an application form by Tuesday 26th May. This is week 2 of the payment that was scheduled for 22nd May, bringing payments up to 5th June.

Any providers who have had their application queried have received a further week’s preliminary payment.

All other service providers’ payments have been calculated for weeks 1- 9 (to 5th June), based on the information in the application form. Preliminary payments paid to date have been reconciled against the actual payment due. Where an overpayment was identified in this reconciliation, no payment was issued this week.

If you have any queries, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or raise a service request on the Early Years Hive.

Early Years Team

Minister Zappone chairs fourth meeting of Advisory Group on planned reopening of childcare centres

Minister Zappone chairs fourth meeting of Advisory Group on planned reopening of childcare centres19875672 1337059526348124 484620879276509836 n
From Department of Children and Youth Affairs - Published at: 27 May 2020

Minister for Children & Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone, this week chaired the fourth meeting of the Advisory Group on the planned reopening of Early Learning and Care (ELC) / School Age Childcare (SAC) services. The Group was established to implement the Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business, which sees creches, childminders and preschools opening in phase 3 (29 June). The Advisory Group includes representatives chosen by the sector, specifically the Association of Childhood Professionals, the National Community Forum, Early Childhood Ireland, the National Childhood Network, PLÉ and Seas Suas. The group also includes Tusla, Pobal, SIPTU and Childminding Ireland. Collectively members represent tens of thousands of providers and staff.

The Minister has also established a Reference Group, to supplement the work of the Advisory Group on phased service reopening, and to give an opportunity for input to provider representatives who are not on this group. The Minister will chair the first meeting of the Reference Group tomorrow, 28 May.

At its fourth meeting, the Advisory Group discussed options for reopening in accordance with the Government roadmap on 29 June. The Minister also provided updates to the Group on several key developments:

  • Insurance: Allianz, the main insurance underwriter for the childcare sector, has agreed that there will be no Covid-19 exclusion on insurance policies for childcare providers which reopen from 29 June, under the Government Roadmap. All covers will be in place as per their existing policies, provided they follow the guidelines and back to work protocols issued by the relevant authorities. Arachas, the broker for the childcare providers’ group insurance scheme, have advised the Department of Children & Youth Affairs that, from the insurance point of view, there should be no barrier to the re-opening of Childcare services on the 29th of June.
  • Payments: The Programme Support Payment (PSP) for the 2019/20 Programme year will issue in June. This payment totals €13m (an additional €6m was already issued in April) and acknowledges the administrative workload on providers delivering DCYA subsidies to almost 200,000 children every year. Pobal will contact all providers shortly to let them know when the applications will open.
  • Capital Programme 2020: The Capital Programme for 2020 was suspended in March, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Minister now plans to launch this €7.2m fund in June, to provide capital funding to childcare providers which are planning to reopen. Funds will be made available to providers in advance, to assist them to carry out minor preparatory works on their premises or to make any essential purchases. Further information will issue in early June.

Speaking following the meeting, the Minister said:

“I want to reassure providers, practitioners, parents and children that my Department is continuing to work intensively to support the sector to work towards as smooth a reopening as possible. The health, wellbeing and safety of children, families and the early education and childcare sector is my top priority. Childcare is a vital part of implementing the Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business. While the COVID-19 emergency called for overnight action on closures, the phased re-opening enables some time and planning to ensure re-opening in an orderly, safe and sustainable manner. Extensive consultation with the sector is a key part of delivering this, and I want to thank each member of the Advisory Group for their hard work and engagement.”

​PIP Notice - Technical difficulties with the CCS returns portal

​Technical difficulties with the CCS returns portalPobalLogo

Dear Service provider,

Some services are currently experiencing technical difficulties while trying to access the CCS returns portal today.

We have highlighted the issue with our ICT department, and hope to have it rectified soon. Thank you for your patience

Early Years Team

Supporting Quality Childcare in Offaly

Offaly County Childcare Committee support the development of quality, affordable, inclusive, accessible childcare and family friendly services for all children in every part of the county.

Offaly County Childcare Committee has been meeting since May 2001 and is made up of representatives from the statutory sector, social partners, community groups, voluntary groups, the Community and Voluntary Forum, National Voluntary Children's Organisations, providers of childcare, and parents - all of whom have a vested interest in childcare provision in the county.

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