Written answers

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Department of Children and Youth Affairs

Childcare Services

Photo of Anne RabbitteAnne Rabbitte (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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1143. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the public health advice offered regarding grandparents having to mind their grandchildren when parents return to work in circumstances in which there is limited capacity or service at their normal childcare provider; the supports her Department is putting in place for such parents; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6385/20]

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 phase 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 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.

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 are subject to further NPHET advice, and decisions from Government.

I am also conscious of the fact that the public health situation might lead to reduced capacity in childcare services, which may create pressures for parents returning to work. My Department is working with the childcare sector on the phased provision of early learning and care and school-age childcare to ensure that services can re-open safely and support parents as effectively as possible. Where parents are making other arrangements for care, I would urge them to adhere to the latest public health advice from the HSE in doing so.

I will undertake to update the Deputy as soon as the work on re-opening services is at a more advanced stage.

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