Education Minister announces further funding to support childcare providers affected by Covid-19
Today (Friday 19 November 2021) Education Minister Michelle McIlveen, MLA has announced the extension of the Covid-19 Childcare Temporary Closures Fund to cover the period 1 October to 31 December 2021. This Fund is intended to provide a financial contribution to childcare providers who have temporarily closed either due to a Covid-19 positive case which has impacted on provision, or being unable to operate due to inadequate staff to child ratios. It will enable providers to suspend or return parental fees during the period of temporary closure.
The Minister also announced an extension to the Covid-19 indemnity cover for childcare providers until 31 December 2021.
Launching the funding, the Minister recognised that the childcare sector has faced real pressures as a result of the pandemic, and noted that, to date, almost £40 million has been provided to support the sector during this time.
While the extended funding is welcome, regrettably the Minister has taken the decision not to extend the Childcare Sustainability Fund, although she has noted that this will be kept under review. Given the deep challenges facing childcare providers at this time we are calling on the Minister to provide much needed, ongoing support to assist the sector in its recovery from the pandemic and longer-term sustainability as we await a new, and long-overdue, Childcare Strategy for Northern Ireland.
Covid-19 Childcare Temporary Closure Fund 1 October to 31 December 2021
This fund is designed to support providers who have to close temporarily – either fully or, in the case of a group setting, a full room – as a direct result of a Covid-19 incident within their setting or being unable to comply with staff to child ratios due to staff being required to self-isolate as advised by the Public Health Agency.
Who is eligible?
The fund is open to registered childcare providers including childminders, daycare providers, school age childcare settings (SAC), crèches and playgroups who are operational during the period 1 October to 31 December 2021 inclusive.
An important condition of funding will be that parents have either not been charged, or have had their fees refunded, during the temporary suspension of services.
Providers will need to demonstrate that, where there is a positive case, this required closure of the provision. There may be circumstances where a positive case within the provision does not require closure and these scenarios will not be covered by the Fund.
Providers must also be in full adherence to the latest Department of Health Covid-19 guidance.
Funding will be allocated to eligible providers based on:
- Whether they meet the scheme requirements
- The type of setting
- Demonstrating adherence to the current PHA guidance.
Full eligibility details and application requirements are available at: www.early-years.org/covid-related-closure-fund-phase-5.
How can childcare providers apply?
If you have informed your Trust of a closure, you will receive a link to apply online within 10 working days. Emails will be issued by Family Support NI. The fund will open for applications from Monday 22 November 2021. If you do not receive a link please email: email@example.com
The scheme is being administered by Early Years – the organisation for young children, on behalf of the Department of Education. Early Years will approve payments within 20 working days of a fully completed application being submitted. This may be delayed if further information or clarification is required.
Each application received will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, and all applications must be submitted by Friday 21 January 2022 at 4pm.
Any queries relating to this Fund should be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org