Employers For Childcare welcomes new measures to support childcare providers

Education Minister Peter Weir has today announced a new scheme to provide financial assistance for Covid-19 related closures in the childcare sector between September and December last year. The Fund will open for applications on Wednesday 6 January 2021 with £3.64 million in funding allocated. Childcare providers located on a school estate who were unable to operate during the extended school mid-term break in October will also be eligible to apply for support under this scheme.

Recognising that this is a financially difficult time for many parents, the Minister confirmed that one of the objectives of the funding support is to ensure that childcare providers do not charge parents while their provision is temporarily closed due to Covid-19, and this is therefore a condition of funding.

Making this announcement, Minister Weir said: “It is essential that we continue to work together across the education and health sectors to ensure the availability of childcare provision and to support the economy, while at the same time ensuring parents can access safe and responsive care.”

Speaking directly to providers, the Minister thanked them for their work: “I want to again thank registered childcare providers for the essential work they do. Their hard work on the ground and determination to maintain services at this critical time is vital in helping us deal with the ongoing challenges facing society as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.”

Who will be eligible for support?

Those eligible to apply include registered Childminders, Daycare Providers, School Age Childcare, Crèches and Playgroups who have been reactivated by their Health and Social Care Trust, have been operational during the period 1 September 2020 to 31 December 2020, and are still currently operational. To be eligible for support, a provider must have had to:

  • Close childcare provision either fully, or had to close a pod or pods due to a Covid-19 case within a child or staff member/childminder; or
  • Been unable to comply with staff:child ratios due to staff self-isolating as directed by PHA.

Additionally, funding will only be payable to registered childcare providers who declare on their application form that they have either not charged, or have refunded, parents’ fees for the period of the closure, before making an application, and are adhering to the latest DoH Covid-19 guidance for childcare.

Funding will be allocated based on the type and / or size of a setting, and the length of period of closure. Full details are available here.

Funding has also been allocated for childcare providers unable to operate due to school closures between 19 and 30 October 2020. Full details 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 will be made through a user friendly online application system, which will open on Wednesday 6 January and close on Friday 5 February 2021 at 5pm.

Initially, eligible providers who have notified their Trust Early Years Teams of a positive case in their setting, and those providers located on school premises, will receive an invitation to apply. The initial invitation will issue from Family Support NI.

Welcome support for the sector at this time

Employers For Childcare welcomes this announcement, and the important financial contribution towards the ongoing costs of childcare providers who have been impacted by Covid-19.

Employers For Childcare’s Head of Charity Services, Aoife Hamilton, welcomed this announcement of additional financial support for the sector: “This is an important development reflecting the vital role of our childcare sector, that has stepped up and continued to provide safe, quality, developmentally enriching care during this time. We would encourage all eligible childcare providers to review the guidance carefully and submit their application as soon as possible.

“This has been an immensely difficult time – for children, parents and childcare providers – and we are particularly pleased that the financial implications of childcare closure on parents has been recognised, with eligibility for funding including the criteria that parental fees were temporarily suspended during any relevant period of closure.

We continue to call for progress on a Childcare Strategy that is long overdue to ensure long-term sustainability for our childcare sector, and that parents can access affordable and high quality childcare”.

Further information

Further information is available at Early Years – the organisation for young children, or you can contact the Childcare Support Fund Team by emailing:

Covid-19 related closure: covidrelatedclosures@early-years.org

School related closure: schoolrelatedclosures@early-years.org