Employers For Childcare welcomes additional funding to support the sustainability of our vital childcare sector

Education Minister Peter Weir has announced an additional £11.8 million in funding to support childcare providers for the period 1 January to 31 March 2021. The Covid-19 Childcare Sustainability Support Fund will provide a vital financial contribution to eligible registered providers who:

  • are continuing to operate at this challenging time, or
  • have temporarily suspended services due to a lack of demand for provision during the current restrictions, but who have unavoidable fixed costs.

The Fund opens for applications on 10 March 2021 and will close on Friday 9 April at 4pm.

Who is eligible?

Applications will be accepted from eligible day nursery and school-aged childcare settings, childminders, crèches and playgroups who are operational during the period 1 January to 31 March 2021. 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 the type and size of the provider. There are two rates of funding, depending on whether a provider is operational or has temporarily suspended services due to lack of demand.

Pro rata payments will be made according to the number of days providers were operational and the number of days services were temporarily suspended due to lack of demand, if appropriate. As long as the provider confirms that they will re-open in line with the lifting of current restrictions, and are not permanently closed, they may be eligible for support even if they have not been operational at any time during the period 1 January to 31 March.

Full eligibility details and funding amounts are available here.

How can childcare providers apply?

The Scheme is being administered by Early Years – the organisation for young children, on behalf of the Department of Education. Applications can be made through a user-friendly online application system, and individual links will be issued by Family Support NI. Do not share your link with any other setting or provider, as this will result in a delay to the processing of your application.

Welcome support for the sector at this time

Following on from approximately £20.5 million of emergency funding allocated to the end of December 2020, the news of further funding is welcome support for the sector at a challenging time to help alleviate the pressures they have faced as a result of the pandemic.

Employers For Childcare’s, Head of Charity Services, Aoife Hamilton, welcomed this announcement of the extension: “This is crucial financial support, at a time when the childcare sector continues to face ongoing challenges as a result of Covid-19, and will be vital to the longer-term recovery and survival of our childcare infrastructure. We would encourage all eligible childcare providers to read the guidance carefully and submit their application as soon as possible.”

Acknowledging however that there are still challenging times ahead for childcare providers and for parents, Aoife concluded: We continue to call for progress on an overdue and much needed Childcare Strategy to ensure long-term sustainability for our childcare sector, and that parents can access affordable and high quality childcare”.

Also available at this time is the Covid-19 related Temporary Closure Fund, which is currently open for providers who have had to temporarily close, or close a pod, due to a case of Covid-19 in a child or staff member, or an inability to comply with staff to child ratios due to staff self-isolating. More information on this Fund is available here.

Further information

Any queries relating to this Fund can be submitted to the Childcare Support Fund Team at Early Years by emailing: sustainability@early-years.org