Following Cabinet approval yesterday (26 January) for the continuation of additional measures under full Level 5 restrictions, the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, T.D., has announced new funding measures to support the Early Learning and Care and School Aged Childcare (ELC and SAC) sector up to 5 March.
The Minister has also confirmed that 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 full operating costs of this services.
Outlining the arrangements, Minister O’Gorman said:
“We all know how important early learning and childcare is to children and families around the country, and the incredible job these services have done throughout the pandemic.
“These funding arrangements are designed to ensure that the significant public money which is being invested in early learning and childcare is structured in a fair and balanced way to support both parents and providers.
“We want to ensure services can remain open, even at very low levels of occupancy, so that they can be available to children and families who need them at this time, whether this be to protect vulnerable children or to enable parents to work in an essential service. We also want to ensure parents aren’t charged when they do not use a service.
“This funding will build on existing funding schemes and other whole of economy supports, such as the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) and will also enable providers to reimburse parents who do not take up the service, and support providers to retain their staff and to reopen as normal once restrictions are lifted.”
In designing these funding supports, Minister O’Gorman engaged with the Early Learning and Childcare
COVID-19 Advisory Group. He briefed the Group on these supports at a meeting on 25 January.
These funding arrangements will apply up to 5 March in line with the Government’s announcement and reflect the unique challenges and demands facing the sector.
Further information on these funding arrangements will issue to providers and to parents today.