Wednesday, 29 July 2020
Department of Children and Youth Affairs
253. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that some crèches and childcare facilities are not taking children under the age of one due to Covid-19, which has resulted in parents being required to take unpaid leave from work to take care of their children; if support will be given to parents in such circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19397/20]
Expert guidance on the safe reopening of Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School Age Childcare (SAC) services during the COVID-19 pandemic was published by the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) on Friday, 29 May. The guidance recommends use of a “play pod” model which restricts interactions between closed groups of children and adults as an alternative to social distancing, on the basis that social distancing is not possible between young children. Based on advice provided by the HPSC, the Regulations in relation to the adult-child ratios and the floor-space requirements for ELC or SAC services have not been amended as such changes are unnecessary where "play pods" are in use. Therefore, additional staff are not required to meet adult-child ratios for any age group.
While some settings may reduce capacity depending on their layout, there are no required capacity reductions, and most services should be able to comply with the public health advice with no or little reduction in numbers of places. In addition, the use of play-pods and the fact that the Regulations in relation to the adult-child ratios and floor-space requirements have not changed mean that the costs of compliance with public health requirements have been kept to a minimum.
My Department has put a major funding package in place to facilitate the reopening of ELC and SAC services. The investment recognises the important role that the ELC and SAC sector plays in the societal and economic infrastructure of the country.
The funding package was tailored to allow providers to operate with less parental income where demand is low in the early stages of reopening and to assist in meeting the costs associated with complying with public health requirements.