Childcare Sector Recovery Plan and Frequently Asked Questions published
Frequently Asked Questions on childcare recovery, and the Childcare Sector Recovery plan, have now been published on the Department of Education website, documenting the key announcements from the Executive last week including confirmation of the following:
- Removal of the key worker definition from 29 June meaning all parents are eligible to access childcare.
- No minimum or maximum numbers are required for day care and school age childcare settings to re-open. The maximum number of children should reflect the registration numbers of the facility pre-COVID19 while taking account of Department of Health guidelines on safe practice to minimise transmission of COVID19 – such as ‘play pods’ limiting interaction across households. With the exception of those areas where aspects have been relaxed, the Minimum Standards still apply.
- The process for varying registration and for re-opening has been streamlined, and Health and Social Care Trusts aim to process applications for setting re-opening within 72 hours.
- Increase in the number of families a childminder can look after at any one time from 3 to 4 in July, with a further increase to 5 from August. So long as the household number is not exceeded, the number of children that can be cared for remains in line with Minimum Standards.
- Indemnification letters in relation to COVID19 incidents have been issued to childcare providers who remained open and will continue to be issued to those providers who have completed the required process between 1 July and 31 August 2020.
The plan also confirms that, with up to 6 people not from same household now able to meet indoors, more families should be able to benefit from access to informal childcare. Importantly, the plan distinguishes ‘informal childcare’ – typically provided by family or friends – from ‘unregistered’ childcare, which is childcare by providers who are not formally registered but who charge a fee for their services. It is illegal to operate as a childcare provider without being registered with the local Health and Social Care Trust.
The intention is that, from September, all childcare providers, including childminders, should be able to operate at full capacity, subject to parental demand.
The current financial support scheme runs until 30 June but the Executive has committed to support the sector going forward, recognising its vital role in the economic recovery. The amount allocated for a future childcare scheme will be a matter for the Executive. Details of a revised scheme are still being developed and will be subject to funding decisions.
For the latest information in relation to childcare, including guidance for childcare providers as they prepare for reopening, and for parents seeking reassurance on the measures being put in place to keep their children safe as they return to childcare, visit the Family Support NI website.
We are here to help
Anyone with questions around accessing and paying for childcare can contact our Family Benefits Advice Service for free, impartial and confidential advice on 0800 028 3008 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.