Written answers

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth

Childcare Services

Photo of Matt CarthyMatt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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1095. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if he will advise Pobal to deliver an alternative to onsite National Childcare Scheme compliance inspections of childcare facilities given the current challenges facing those centres as a result of the Covid-19 situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1207/22]

Photo of Roderic O'GormanRoderic O'Gorman (Dublin West, Green Party)
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Following the emergence of Covid-19 in March 2020, on-site compliance inspections were suspended. In order to progress with some form of compliance a temporary desk-based process was developed for the various Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School-Age Childcare (SAC) programmes. Desk based checks commenced in late 2020 for CCSP schemes,  followed by desk based checks in April 2021 for the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme, after full re-opening of the ELC/SAC sector following the third pandemic wave in Q1 2021. In addition, first checks on the National Childcare Scheme (NCS), which commenced in June 2021,  were also desk based.

Desk-based checking, although providing some level of assurance, does not allow for the full suite of compliance checks to be completed. Furthermore the scope and range of desk-based checks conducted had to be reduced, given the additional administrative burden this approach had on providers. As a result desk-based compliance checks are limited in purposes intended.  

My Department is required to ensure that exchequer funding is protected and that it used for the purposes it was made available for.  Compliance checking also provides assurance on compliance with schematic rules.  In light of the above, and following extensive consultation with the Department of Education and Tusla Inspectorates, it was decided that on-site compliance inspections could resume in somewhat a limited manner.

I am cognisant of the current operational challenges that services are experiencing due to the high Covid-19 case numbers and staff shortages, and the subsequent impact that this is having service delivery. As an interim measure,  on-site inspections are announced, with providers receiving at least 48 hours’ notice of a scheduled inspection. Upon receiving a notification Pobal then contacts the provider to discuss the pending inspection, providing any clarifications required or discussing any concerns the service may have in relation to the inspection. Alternative arrangements, including a deferral to a later date, can be facilitated if it is not possible for a provider to facilitate the inspection on the scheduled date.

I would like to assure you that onsite inspections have and will continue to be closely monitored by both my Department and Pobal in accordance with strict public health guidance and at all times taking into account the ongoing challenging operating environment currently experienced by providers.


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