Wednesday, 20 May 2020
Department of Children and Youth Affairs
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.