Childcare services asked to suspend fees, refund parents who are not essential workers

Only some children will be allowed to attend creches this month under new Covid-19 measures

The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme, which provides care and education for pre-school children, has been postponed until February 1st.  Photograph: iStock

The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme, which provides care and education for pre-school children, has been postponed until February 1st. Photograph: iStock

 

Childcare providers have been asked to refund or suspend fees paid by parents who are not essential workers and cannot avail of their services in January as a result of new Covid-19 restrictions.

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman made the appeal on the basis of “extensive financial supports” available to the sector during the public health crisis.

While some exceptions have been allowed for in new measures announced by the Government, he asked that providers pause the payment of fees or return those paid in advance for parents not deemed essential workers who cannot access their services this month.

The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme, which provides care and education for pre-school children, has been postponed until February 1st.

However, other childcare services, including childminders and creches, can continue for the children of essential workers and vulnerable children.

A household of an essential worker, without an existing childcare arrangement, can also form a bubble with another household in order to provide childcare.

A statement from the Department of Children noted that Government funding, including the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) as well Early Learning and Childcare schemes, remains available to these services.

“Nphet’s (the National Public Health Emergency Team) advice is that childcare services are safe for both children and staff,” Mr O’Gorman said.

“However, to beat this virus we need to reduce movement, and that is why Cabinet has decided that childcare will be open only to essential workers and vulnerable children.”

“In light of this level of State support, I am asking that services refund or credit fees for those parents who cannot access services.”

The Department is to provide further clarification on the subject for both parents and providers on Thursday.