Written answers

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Department of Children and Youth Affairs

Childcare Services

Photo of Mary ButlerMary Butler (Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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1099. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will clarify, following the publication of the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business, guidelines on Covid-19 for registered and non-registered childminders that care for children in the children’s own homes and in which phase this activity can recommence. [5590/20]

Photo of Mary ButlerMary Butler (Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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1100. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will clarify, following the publication of the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business, guidelines on to Covid-19 for registered and non-registered childminders that care for children in their own homes and in which phase this activity can recommence. [5591/20]

Photo of Mary ButlerMary Butler (Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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1101. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will clarify, following the publication of the Roadmap for Reopening of Society and Business, guidelines on to Covid-19 for registered and non-registered childminders that care for the children of healthcare workers and in which phase of the plan this activity can recommence. [5592/20]

Photo of Mary ButlerMary Butler (Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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1102. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will clarify, following the publication of the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business, guidelines on to Covid-19 for registered and non-registered childminders that care for the children of essential workers and in which phase of the plan this activity can recommence. [5593/20]

Photo of Katherine ZapponeKatherine Zappone (Dublin South West, Independent)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 1099 to 1102, inclusive, together.

As per HSE guidance and in accordance with the regulations under the Health (Preservation and Protection and Other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2000, childminders who care for the children of essential workers in the children's home were permitted to continue working after childcare facilities were closed on 12 March, and are themselves considered essential workers.

The HSE guidance specifies that at present childminding should not take place in the carer’s home, in order to avoid households mixing.

My Department is continuing to progress readiness measures in preparation of a phased reopening of early learning and care and school-age facilities, including registered and non-registered childminders, in line with the Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business.

Phase 3 of the Roadmap, which is currently scheduled to begin on 29 June, provides for the opening of childminders (along with the opening of creches and preschools) for essential workers, in a phased manner. Guidance, cleared by Public Health experts, will be issued by my Department over the coming weeks.

Photo of Robert TroyRobert Troy (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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1103. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the status of the provision of childcare facilities for front-line HSE staff. [6472/20]

Photo of Katherine ZapponeKatherine Zappone (Dublin South West, Independent)
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As the Deputy will be aware, I announced on 13 May that the Temporary Childcare Scheme for Essential Health Workers, which was to deliver home based childcare to healthcare workers, would not proceed from 18 May as planned. Unfortunately, uptake for the scheme among early learning and care and school aged care providers was much lower than expected, and so the scheme had to be cancelled.

In commenting on the reasons for low take-up of the scheme by childcare providers, childcare provider organisations have referred to the lack of insurance cover for Covid-19 related claims which could be taken against them; to concerns about the difficulty of supporting staff remotely and lack of control of the environment in which their staff would be working; and the inability to provide staff with fixed lunch and rest breaks without any ongoing responsibility for the care of children.

I acknowledge that there were indeed challenges to the scheme from the beginning, however, my Department, refusing to take a risk averse position in unprecedented times, worked hard to make a scheme available. I believe that discussions about this scheme has assisted services, staff and my Department to focus on the obstacles that need to be addressed to facilitate services beginning a phased re-opening from 29 June.

Since the cancellation of the scheme, there has been progress with regard to insurance. The primary insurer in the childcare sector has agreed that Covid-19 related claims will not be excluded from policies for services which reopen from 29 June. In terms of addressing the public health fears of the sector, the opening of other sectors on 18 May ,and recent research suggesting that children may play only a minor role in spreading the virus, should help to reduce childcare practitioners’ fears.

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