Childcare for children of key workers in Northern Ireland

Childcare settings, including childminders and day nurseries, are being asked to continue to provide care for a limited number of children – children who are vulnerable, and children whose parents are key workers.

Key workers are (in order of priority):

  1. Health and Social Care workers providing clinical care for those who have tested positive for Covid-19;
  2. Health and Social Care workers supporting life threatening emergency work, as well as critical primary and community care provision; and safeguarding;
  3. All other Health and Social Care workers, and wider public sector workers providing emergency/critical welfare services (e.g. PSNI/NIFRS/Prison Staff/Social Workers/Teachers in schools remaining open).

Only one parent is required to be a keyworker.

Vulnerable children are:

A child currently known to social services, who is:

  • in need;
  • in need of protection (on the child protection register); or
  • looked after.

The definition includes young carers, disabled children and those with Statements of special educational needs. HSC Trusts are starting to make contact with some childminders to assess their capacity to provide childcare for some children known to the Trust who are vulnerable.

We would urge all childcare providers to visit the Family Support NI website here, click on the letter that is relevant to their setting, and complete the short survey indicating their availability to provide care for key worker and vulnerable children.

Where group settings remain open, they will be able to temporarily relax certain standards, for example in relation to mixing age groups. Settings will receive guidance from the Department of Health in relation to infection control and Covid-19 policies and procedures to support them in continuing to provide care safely.

New bespoke scheme matches Approved Home Childcarers with key workers to provide childcare in the home.

The Department of Health has announced an important new scheme to support key workers in Northern Ireland to access vital childcare at this time and has issued guidance to childcare settings. Further details of the Covid-19 Approved Home Childcare Scheme can be found here.

The new scheme aims to provide key worker parents with childcare in their own home by registering staff from existing childcare settings to work temporarily as ‘Approved Home Childcarers’. Settings are then being asked to link parents with staff who are in their current employment. The Department is prioritising a restricted list of key workers, principally Health and Social Care workers (the full list is in the guidance), and those key workers who have babies or toddlers who cannot access care in a school setting.

The guidance at the link above includes information for childcare settings and their employees on how staff can register temporarily as an Approved Home Childcarer, and encloses the form that must be completed by the individual. In summary staff are required to:

  • Complete the short application form
  • Have the information verified by the Registered Person or Person in Charge in their current setting
  • Return the completed form to the Trust with a copy of their latest enhanced enclosure check
  • This can all be scanned and attached to an email.

If parents are able to use a new Approved Home Childcarer, they may be able to access financial support to assist with the cost, for example, they may be able to continue to use Childcare Vouchers to pay for childcare.

If you would like further information about this scheme, and the financial support you are entitled to, email hello@employersforchildcare.org or Freephone 0800 028 3008 to connect with a member of our Family Benefits Advice Service.