Employers For Childcare welcomes opening of new financial support scheme for childcare providers

Education Minister Peter Weir has today announced that the new Childcare Sustainability Support Fund will open for applications on Friday 4 December 2020. £8.5 million in funding was allocated at the end of October and is designed to further support the sustainability of the childcare sector in Northern Ireland, building on previous financial recovery schemes.

Making this announcement, Minister Weir said: “Registered childcare providers offer safe and nurturing environments for children and it is important they remain open. As part of ongoing childcare recovery, the Childcare Sustainability Support Fund will provide short-term support for the sector to assist their ongoing sustainability and recovery during the Covid-19 pandemic”.

Speaking directly to providers, the Minister thanked them for their work: “I want to 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. It is a testament to their commitment that children have been able to continue to access positive developmental experiences in their childcare provision, and parents have been able to continue to work and provide important services for society.”

Who will be eligible for support?

This scheme will help childcare providers that have opened – or remained open – in the period 1 September to 31 December 2020. Subject to eligibility, it will apply to all forms of registered childcare – day care and school age childcare settings, registered childminders, eligible playgroups and crèches. A grant payment will be made according to the type and size of the provider. Full details will be available at www.early-years.org/childcare-support-fund.

Applications will be backdated to the start of September, or to the date on which a setting was authorised by the Health and Social Care (HSC) Trusts to re-open (if after 1 September).

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. Eligible childcare providers will shortly receive an email from Family Support NI inviting them to apply.

The fund will close for all applicants on Friday 5 February 2021 at 5pm. Late applications will not be accepted.

Short-term closure support fund

Allocation of £2.8 million for a short-term closure support fund was also announced, to assist those providers who have had to close temporarily due to Covid-19 during the period September to December, for example, because of a case within a setting. Details of how this fund will be administered are still to be published. In the meantime, we would encourage providers to keep clear records of all relevant information relating to a temporary closure.

Welcome support for the sector at this time

Employers For Childcare welcomes this announcement, recognising the importance of financial support at this time as a continuing step in supporting the future and ongoing sustainability of our vital childcare infrastructure in Northern Ireland.

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 in supporting the future and ongoing sustainability of our vital childcare infrastructure in Northern Ireland. Alongside this, we still need to see urgent progress on a Childcare Strategy that is long overdue to ensure the long-term support the sector, and the parents who rely on it, need”.

Referring to the fund announced today, Aoife continued: “We would encourage all eligible childcare providers to review the guidance carefully and submit their application as soon as possible. We recognise the significant impact that temporary closures can have on providers, whether that is a group setting having to close a pod, or a childminder having to close completely for a period of time, due to a case of Covid-19 – so we hope that, in addition to the sustainability fund, the short-term closure support fund will open as soon as possible.”

Further information

Early years will be holding information sessions to support providers making an application under the Childcare Sustainability Fund. Further details, and links to register, are available here.