Written answers

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Department of Children and Youth Affairs

Early Years Sector

Photo of Anne RabbitteAnne Rabbitte (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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1136. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number and names of persons taking part in the advisory group analysing the reopening of early years services; the name of the six representative organisations that are participating; the planned schedule of the group meetings; if the minutes of these meetings will be uploaded to the website of her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6229/20]

Photo of Katherine ZapponeKatherine Zappone (Dublin South West, Independent)
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On Friday 1 May, the Government released its Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business, which sets out Ireland's plan for lifting COVID-19 restrictions through five phases. The re-opening of Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare (ELC and SAC) services will be guided by this framework and will be underpinned by the Government's Return to Work Safely Protocol, expert advice, available evidence and consultation with ELC and SAC stakeholder representatives and providers themselves.

The sector has many questions regarding how the Roadmap will be implemented to enable services to re-open. While the COVID-19 emergency called for overnight action on closures, it is my ambition that the phased re-opening will enable sufficient time and planning to re-open in an orderly, safe and sustainable manner. I would like to reassure providers, practitioners, parents and children that I will be doing my utmost to support the sector in offering as smooth a transition as possible to the phased and restricted re-opening of ELC and SAC services.

I am actively engaging with key stakeholders in the sector to make sure that the work on re-opening services is informed by the practical reality across the country. I have established and Chair an Advisory Group, as referred to by the Deputy, comprising the following representatives from the sector, my Department, SIPTU, Pobal, and Tusla:

Department of Children and Youth Affairs

Minister Katherine Zappone (Chair)

Bernie McNally

Anne-Marie Brooks

Mark Considine

Toby Wolfe

Sectoral representatives

Marian Quinn, Association of Childhood Professionals Ireland

Marie Daly, National Community Childcare Forum

Teresa Heeney, Early Childhood Ireland

Denise McCormilla, National Childhood Network

Mary Moloney, PLÉ (National Association of Higher Education Institutions offering Degree Level Training in Early Childhood Care and Education) and Chair Professionalisation Sub- Group of DCYA National Early Years Forum

Regina Bushell, Seas Suas (Independent Early Education and Childcare Providers)

Childminding representative

Bernadette Burke, Childminding Ireland

Union representative

Diane Jackson, SIPTU

Tusla

Fiona McDonnell

Pobal

David Burke

Margaret Rogers

The proposed meeting dates for this group are as follows:

13 May 2020

15 May 2020

19 May 2020

26 May 2020

2 June 2020

9 June 2020

Additional meetings may be held as and when the need arises. We plan to publish as much material related to the working of the group as soon as possible.

The proposals for re-opening which are in development will have due regard to Public Health guidance over the phases of easing of restrictions. I am conscious that the proposed timelines in the Roadmap are subject to further NPHET advice, and decisions from Government.

There are a number of key decisions to be made across Government that will impact significantly on the ELC and SAC sector, including the future of emergency measures such as the Revenue operated Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection operated Pandemic Unemployment Payment, and other business supports. The proposals for re-opening ELC and SAC services necessarily interact with these schemes and so I will be relying on whole of Government plans, which impact the ELC and SAC sector.

It is my fervent hope that every early education and childcare service around the country is currently considering how it can be part of helping Ireland get back to work, and how it can support children from June 29th in the very difficult circumstances they have experienced in recent months.

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